Eskasoni moves ahead with election

·2 min read

SYDNEY — Eskasoni First Nation will hold its band council election in late May, over a year past its originally scheduled date.

Eskasoni changed its election rules in 2016 to bring them in line with the federal First Nations Election Act. The new regulations increased chief and council terms from two years to four years, and prevent candidates from running for both chief and councillor in the same election.

Chief Leroy Denny was first elected to the position in 2010. In the last band election in October 2016, Denny was re-elected with over 70 per cent of the vote in a four-way race. All but one of the incumbents were also elected to council, along with one new councillor, Tom Johnson Jr.

According to the new rules, Eskasoni’s election was to be held in the fall of 2020 but Denny announced in late August that it was being pushed back due to the worry of a second wave of COVID-19. At the time, Jaime Battiste, MP for Sydney-Victoria, said his home community of Eskasoni was not equipped for online voting as internet connectivity and computer access were inadequate for that purpose.

Candidates for chief and the 12 council positions will be nominated at a meeting on April 21. Nominations can be made through email or mail, or oral nominations can be made at the meeting.

Denny said he intends to put his name forward for a fifth term.

“I’m excited to re-offer and to continue many great things our leadership has accomplished,” he said.

Denny said the community is ready and prepared to react to a second wave should it come but has planned out the next election with strict COVID-19 restrictions in place.

He said many candidates will focus on social media campaigns and may still go door-to-door but will respect if residents post signs saying they do not wish to have visitors.

Eskasoni is currently rolling out its second round of immunizations, meaning the majority of elders and health-compromised residents will be fully vaccinated by the time the campaign begins next month.

That’s a relief to Melinda Young, Eskasoni’s electoral officer. She’s glad the election was postponed to safer times.

“I’m really happy that the majority of our people will have their second dose, I was really worried about that so I think it’s best,” she said.

Young said anyone aged 18 and over is eligible for nomination on April 21.

The election will be held on May 26 with voting taking place between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the Sarah Denny Memorial Cultural Centre or by mail-in ballot.

Ardelle Reynolds, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post