A newly elected councillor at the Samson Cree nation in Alberta has been removed from office – and he believes his removal was unfair.
Shay Yellowbird was voted into office as a council member on July 28. At 32, he was the youngest councillor on the new leadership team.
But things quickly fell apart. On Aug. 11 he was informed by Chief Vernon Saddleback that there was an appeal against his election.
“I have a lot of people asking questions. A lot of supporters, especially the youth who are disappointed in this result,” said Yellowbird.
The band’s election law states that candidates are not allowed to work for the band during the election campaign.
And Yellowbird works in the band: He helps prepare cheques for members needing income support.
He says he did prep some cheques for before the election, so the members would get their money on time.
“We prep cheques monthly, income support cheques, which are handed out the end of the month. I think July 27 is when they are trying to say I prepped those cheques. And they were approved and handed out on the 29th, the day after the election.”
He was given 24 hours to prepare his appeal. His supervisor testified that his job should be considered an essential service.
Yellowbird was no longer a councillor. He is asking for a judicial review.
“I feel like I need to continue to try and fight this because I put my heart and soul into a clean campaign.”
Sheldon Omeasoo, who voted for Yellowbird, found it “very unfair.”
“I feel they are picking on the youngest councillor. And we need a young councillor for the next generation,” said Omeasoo.
Izaiah Swampy Omeasoo tried to run earlier this year for chief, but at 18 was too young, according to the band’s election law.
He says the decision to remove Yellowbird was wrong.
“I find it completely ridiculous how just a few select lobbyists were able to remove literally within a day, a rightfully elected councillor.”
APTN was not able to reach Chief Electoral Officer Loretta Lambert, nor two of the appeal board members before the deadline.
The third appeal board member, Geraldine Hill refused to comment on the situation.
Saddleback spoke to APTN and said that Yellowbird did break an election law.
“There are certain things you are not allowed to do while you are campaigning for office. And they declared that valid that he did breach articles of the election law,” said Saddleback.
“The election law, the appeals, they are all independent of chief and council. They made the determination that Shay be removed from office.”
A by-election will be held Aug. 18 to find Yellowbird’s replacement, unless the judicial review is approved before.