11/05/2014 01:42 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST

Three candidates vying for AFN National Chief

The three candidates for the position of National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations have been unveiled.

Perry Bellegarde, Leon Jourdain and Ghislain Picard were officially announced as candidates for the upcoming election on December 10th in Winnipeg. 

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The position was left vacant after the abrupt resignation of former National Chief Shawn Atleo in May.

His resignation came amid criticism from chiefs who accused Atleo of growing too close to the government after he supported the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.  His departure signalled deep divides among chiefs and since then, the future of the national organization has been called into question. 

Ghislain Picard was the AFN regional chief for First Nations in Quebec and Labrador on the executive council of AFN before he took over role of National Chief after Atleo's departure. Perry Bellegarde is currently the Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Leon Jourdaine is a former chief of the Lac La Croix First Nation in northwestern Ontario. 

According to the AFN Charter, eligible candidates must be eighteen years of age or older; of First Nations ancestry; a member of First Nation community, in good standing with the AFN; and have 15 eligible electors endorse his/her candidacy.

There are 639 First Nation communities in Canada that are recognized as members of the Assembly of First Nations. However, only elected First Nation chiefs or their proxies are eligible to vote for AFN National Chief.

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