Editors Note: On Nov. 28. arbitrator Gordon McKenzie ordered a new election for chief and council for Bigstone Cree Nation. The election will take place on Dec. 18.
An Alberta arbitrator from Edmonton will decide if the Bigstone Cree Nation will be getting a new election for chief, council or both.
Gordon McKenzie heard from the three members who filed an appeal of the last election, a member running for council and lost, officers working at the polling stations and Marilyn Yellowhorn the community’s chief electoral officer.
APTN News was not allowed to record the hearings.
About 50 people arrived at an Edmonton school to watch the appeals launched by three band members, and a member who ran for council and lost.
The appeals content that the Oct. 29 election had a number of irregularities.
The appeals note that some members were not allowed to vote but were entitled to, some were allowed to vote when they were not allowed and there were reports of people voting twice at different polling stations.
According to the band’s election rules, if a member’s eligibility to vote was in question at the polls, the officer was supposed to phone the membership department to check.
McKenzie asked one polling officer if they allowed people to vote without calling said, “I might have. Maybe.”
Another officer said they randomly took five ballots to make up for people voting who should not have.
This election was Ranee Beaver’s first time to vote. She is a Bigstone member but did not register to vote.
She said she was told she didn’t have to.
Beaver drove three and a half hours to get to the appeal to testify.
She told APTN what happened on election night.
“They told me again that I wasn’t allowed to vote. I went to the front, gave them my name and my number again and they were looking at the list. They said we will get back to you. We will call to see if you are a band member,” she said.
“And they never got back to me. And I felt like I wasn’t heard.”
John Guillion ran for a spot on council.
He says the electoral officer ran a poor election.
Elections in Bigstone are controversial affairs.
An election in 2010, and another in 2014 were successfully appealed by Guillion, and new elections were ordered.
“Members from the 2014 election were not allowed to vote,” said Guillion. “Again, there was confusion on the part of the electoral officer. Also, there were two (electoral) lists going around. The polling clerks could not get a hold of him all day. Non returned calls. It caused confusion in all polling stations.”
Along with the election, another issue involving Bigstone band is the large bonuses the previous chief and council received.
Council members voted to give themselves a $60,000 bonus from Mistassini Aboriginal contracted – a band owned company.
Former chief Gordon Auger told APTN that he and council deserved the bonus because the company was profitable.
APTN was shown a document from the band’s lawyer Terry Antonello dated Oct. 15 where he stated the bonus was a conflict of interest.
He recommended that chief and council pay the money back.
Irene Auger said that she has been homeless for 10 years.
She is currently living in a tent for the winter.
She said that homelessness is a big issue in the community and that chief and council already make enough money.
“I think they should pay it back. I don’t think they earned it,” she said. “They get enough money from their pay, their salary, and they get extra for when they go to meetings. They get their gas, their hotel, their food.
“So they are making enough money.”