April Martel will remain Chief of the Kátł’odeeche First Nation after winning by four votes in a by-election called following a dispute over the First Nation’s election rules.
Martel received 113 votes to Elaine Auger’s 109 in Monday’s by-election after an independent adjudicator found that a residency rule disqualifying Auger from last year’s election was unfair.
Without Auger on the ballot, Martel was acclaimed to a second term as chief last November.
Auger was prevented from running because the First Nation’s custom election code stated candidates must have lived in the community for at least two years.
Auger went on to appeal the decision. The custom election code – a legal framework communities can adopt as an alternative to the one set out in the federal Indian Act – required the First Nation’s council to settle the issue through an adjudicator, Michael Hansen, who found that the residency rule violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Lenny Fabian, the by-election’s third candidate, received 12 votes behind Martel and Auger. The results were published by the First Nation on Wednesday evening.
Martel is no stranger to close elections. She won by just three votes to become chief for the first time in 2018.
She will now see out the remainder of her second term, which runs until late 2024.
The by-election was somewhat acrimonious.
Auger expressed disappointment that the First Nation had tried to argue the charter should not apply to its elections, while Martel accused Auger of bullying.