Voting fraud found in 2017 Manitoba First Nation election, but nothing will happen

ISC says despite report showing vote buying, the election stands.

A federal review into the Oct. 28 election in Pinaymootang First Nation has concluded that widespread voting fraud took place.

While this is not the first time that an appeal has been filed after Chief Garnet Woodhouse was elected, this time a federal review concluded there was fraud and vote buying.

“… testimonies have concluded that there has been vote buying and ballot exchange but that the findings have been inconclusive in assigning or associating responsibility for voting fraud and corrupt practice to a person, individual, faction or group of candidates and supporters,” says the outline of the report on the ISC website.

It concludes, “during the 2017 general election, fraud and vote buying was widespread, and that it may have affected the results of the election of the chief and councilor positions.”

Clarence Sumner filed the appeal in 2017. Sumner also drove over 2,300 kilometres in 2019 to Indigenous Services headquarters in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa, to address his concerns of vote buying.

Sumner was a candidate for councillor and finished with 320 votes in the 2017 election. He says this decision is a positive step in the right direction.

“For me that was a victory in itself because this isn’t the only appeal that I’ve set forth against Garnet Woodhouse and his clan, and it’s always been Garnet Woodhouse and his clan. So yes it’s a nice feeling to know that all the hard work that me and my friends did to do this appeal in 2017 was heard,” Sumner said in a phone interview with APTN News.

Despite the review’s conclusion, the review findings could not determine who was ultimately responsible.

A statement on behalf of Chief Garnet Woodhouse and council tells a different story, saying one person was responsible although they have not been named.

Chief Garnet declined to be interviewed and referred us to the band’s lawyer Harley Schachter.

“The minister’s investigation into voter fraud was centred only upon three votes, out of all the votes that were cast. Three votes and involved one former, sorry, one employee of the former chief and council who were not elected. And I know it’s a little bit confusing to follow the bouncing ball but that’s the story,” said Schachter.

Schachter added there was another appeal in 2019 but the review found no wrongdoing in that election with the current chief and council.

Sumner also filed reports in 2011 and 2019 and while unsuccessful – says he will be keeping an eye on elections in the future.

“To me, that means that this can open up doors for more criminal investigations, more thorough criminal investigation to take place. I’ve already alerted my Member of Parliament Niki Ashton and I’ve also alerted my local Gypsumville RCMP detachment,” Sumner said.

“Now I’m looking forward to what the RCMP is going to do. So they’ve already opened up a file, at the local detachment here at the RCMP.”

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) says any eligible elector or candidate can report an appeal under the Federal Indian Band Election Regulation within 45 days of an election, if they believe were corrupt practices in relation to the election.

ISC says the election results cannot be overturned as a result of this report.

“It was concluded that on the balance of probability that corrupt practice took place during the 2017 election. Unfortunately, the evidence and submissions provided by all parties could not definitively establish and lead to a conclusion that corrupt practice was associated to one individual, one faction or one group of candidates and their supporters,” stated ISC spokesperson William Olscamp.

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