Members take Alberta Cree Nation to court over postponed election

The band operates under its own custom election code

An aerial shot of Mikisew Cree Nation from its Facebook page.

Members of Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta say their band council did not consult the community before deciding to postpone a June 20 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Off-reserve member Roy Vermillion said there is an “urgent” need to hold an election.

“Our leadership have not consulted with our members for major decisions they have made,” he alleged from his home in Kelowna, B.C.

“We don’t get any reports; we don’t know what’s happening. If people don’t know what’s happening, people get concerned and that’s why they want a new slate, new chief and council.”

Vermillion started an online petition, which has more than 500 signatures, and joined another band member in taking legal action against Chief Archie Waquan and his council.

Waquan, responding to Vermillion in a letter, said council was “following the pandemic response plan of the Government of Canada” after it posted a resolution in April stating the election was postponed until the end September.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Indigenous nations can postpone their elections for six months so as not to put members at risk of contracting the potentially deadly virus.

“Canada recognizes the health risks of holding elections during the COVID-19 Pandemic. We therefore recommend that First Nations do not go forward with upcoming elections & will work w. communities that choose to postpone their election to ensure leadership continuity,” he said on Twitter.

READ MORE: Critic say more robust solutions needed as Ottawa dusts off Indian Act for new pandemic election regulations

However, with Phase 2 of Alberta’s post-pandemic relaunch strategy well underway, members like Vermillion and Elder Alice Martin say they believe now is a safe time to hold an election for members on- and off-reserve.

“The majority of the elders are asking for the election and them using COVID and using the elders as a way to move their agenda is very disrespectful,” Martin said.

Band members are leaving the final decision up to the federal court, which is scheduled to hear their complaint for failure to hold an election on June 20.

The band operates under its own custom election code.

Video Journalist / Calgary

Tamara is Métis from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She received a diploma in interactive media arts at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon and has worked as a videographer for CBC in Winnipeg and Iqaluit. Tamara was hired by APTN in 2016 as a camera/editor and is now a video journalist in our Calgary bureau.