18-year-old barred from running for Samson Cree Nation chief

Election laws prohibit anyone under 21 from running, electoral officer says

Izaiah Swampy-Omeasoo had thoughts of being the youngest chief in Canada.

The Samson Cree Nation in Alberta held their elections this week, but the 18-year-old who wanted to run for chief is not on the ballot because he was told he was he’s too young.

Swampy-Omeasoo is disappointed.

“It’s unfortunate that I’m allowed to vote at 18, but not able to put my name forward to represent myself in our governing body until I’m 21. There was a little resentment in voting.”

Swampy-Omeasoo says he wanted to represent the youth in the Samson Cree Nation and was approached by many young members who asked him to run for chief.

So he filled out the forms on nomination day, and paid his $1,000 fee to Loretta J. Pete Lambert, the chief electoral officer.

He then says he was then told by Lambert that elections laws forbid anyone under 21 from running for chief.

“I had a lot of young folks coming up to me wanting…they are feeling unheard. So it’s been very unfortunate because there is a deep hurt for them,” he said.

“As a youth, I’ve really experienced that, in them sharing their emotions with me.”

Swampy-Omeasoo appealed the decision.

Again, he was told by the appeal committee that he could not run. He said that he had strong feelings voting for a candidate other than himself.

APTN News was told by band security that we were not allowed to film the voting area, and to cross the street and only take photographs of the voting station.

We contacted Lambert, who said it is the band law that you must be 21 to run for chief. She says that Swampy-Omeasoo will be getting his $1,000 returned.

Swampy-Omeasoo says when he gets the money back, he will donate it.

“I’d like to give it back, in my discretion to the community members. Single moms. Single dads. Mother and fathers and families.”

Incumbent Chief Vernon Saddleback won the July 15 election.

Swampy-Omeasoo says the experience has not dampened his desire to run in the next election.

“Yes, I do intend to run in the next elections, as I’ll be of legal age. And I’m sure unequivocally by then, support would be immense,” he said.

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.