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Concerns raised about feds dealings on First Nations elections amid COVID-19

Last Updated Apr 3, 2020 at 3:12 pm EDT

OTTAWA — The chief of an Ontario First Nation says her community is caught up in bureaucratic and “paternalistic” voting rules that could leave it with a governance gap in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Valerie Richer says her Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation was moving forward with its upcoming chief and council elections before the coronavirus hit Canada and was waiting for Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller to approve the community’s new election process.

The community ratified a new custom election code in January, which would allow the First Nation to decide for itself how a vote in the community will take place.

But Richer says Miller has not yet approved their new election code and that his office has instead suggested they postpone the vote and fill the resulting governance gap through an interim appointed council.

Richer says an appointed administrator or council would be highly problematic, especially in the middle of a pandemic, and her First Nation wants to proceed with its election, which allows members to vote online.

A number of First Nations across Canada with elections scheduled in the coming weeks and months are grappling with whether to go ahead or postpone and some say they are not getting the information they need from the federal government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press