Acho Dene Koe delay election for chief, blame unratified election code

·3 min read
Acho Dene Koe Band Office. ADKFN has delayed it's recent election for chief, blaming an unratified election code. (Submitted by Floyd Bertrand. - image credit)
Acho Dene Koe Band Office. ADKFN has delayed it's recent election for chief, blaming an unratified election code. (Submitted by Floyd Bertrand. - image credit)

Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard, N.W.T., has once again delayed its election for chief after elections officer, Graeme Dean, recommended they amend the election code or he resigns.

The decision comes after Dean was asked to determine the eligible candidates for chief after nominations for the current election closed on June 22.

Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADKFN) has not had a successful election for chief since 2017.

Dean was concerned that without a ratified election code the door was open to appeals. He was also concerned about contradictions in the code regarding voting eligibility.

According to Dean, Section 1d of the election code states that only residents of Fort Liard can vote, yet Section 39 outlines specific instructions on how to mail ballots to non-resident members.

"This discrepancy makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to determine eligible candidates," wrote Dean in an update given online.

Dean wrote that until this contradiction is fixed, there will be grounds for members to file legitimate appeals, resulting in further disagreements threatening the integrity of its elected leadership.

On July 21, ADKFN Council announced the approval of Dean's recommendation to stop the election and instead, work on ratifying the custom election code.

'A willingness to try'

Dean said that he has experience with other First Nations that were in similar situations with their elections process and he feels optimistic about the schedule they have in place.

"There's a willingness to try, that's the first step," said Dean. "It shows intent to solve the problem and not get involved in this vicious cycle."

Dean said that they will create a committee that will complete community consultations next month, the committee will then amend the code based on the feedback from ADKFN members.

Once that is complete, the amendments will be finalized and voted on in October. With a ratified election code, Dean hopes they will have a successful election for chief by early next year.

Waiting for 2 years

But not everyone is happy with another election delay. Former chief Floyd Bertrand has been waiting for an election for two years.

In 2020 he took ADKFN to federal court over its decision to postpone an election due to COVID-19. The judge ruled in favour of Bertrand, deciding that chief and council overstepped their powers with the delay.

Bertrand then successfully appealed the April 2021 election for chief. Yellowknife lawyer Garth Wallbridge adjudicated the appeal and found the election process was "seriously flawed."

Wallbridge ordered the band to hold a new election "with all due haste, as quickly as can reasonably be done."

'That will never happen'

Bertrand was one of four nominations submitted for this year's election. The other three were Frank Kotchea Sr., Eugene Hope, and Cathy Kotchea. Acting sub-chief, Brenda Berreault submitted a nomination but then withdrew it the next day.

Bertrand said it's up to the chief and council to ratify the election code. To do that they need to hold an election.

"ADK had since 2008 to sort that out," said Bertrand. "You can't come in and just start making changes and making rules as you see fit."

Bertrand is doubtful about the suggested schedule put in place. He said that with members living all across Canada and even the United States, the October date is unrealistic.

"You're dreaming, that will never happen," said Bertrand. "You were hired to do the election, so just see it through."

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