After being postponed twice due to the pandemic, the Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADKFN) will hold its chief and council election on April 14, 2021.
The First Nation, in Fort Liard, posted a council resolution on Facebook on Tuesday morning declaring the date.
The election, which was slated to happen June 8, 2020, was allowed to be postponed twice – each for a six-month period – under federally introduced legislation governing First Nations elections during the pandemic.
The intent of the legislation was to let Indigenous leaders retain their positions to focus on the health and safety of their community.
In September, the First Nation’s leadership stated they felt “holding an election continues to pose a serious risk of the spread of … Covid-19 to candidates, Acho Dene Koe First Nations members, and the residents of Fort Liard.”
As Windspeaker reported, some community members have been frustrated at the decision to postpone the election. Former ADKFN chief Floyd Bertrand and other members have taken legal action against the current chief, Gene Hope, and council.
Bertrand says the chief and council should only serve two-year terms, while Tuesday’s ADKFN resolution states chief and council are elected to serve three-year terms..
Bertrand argues – since he believes two-year terms should be in use – the election has actually been postponed three times, not just twice.
He also disputes whether or not a custom election code is in place, as claimed by the First Nation. In Tuesday’s council resolution, ADKFN stated the election will follow its “custom election code of 2007.”
According to another ADKFN member and former chief, Harry Deneron, that custom election code was neither voted on nor adopted by a band council resolution. Deneron was chief when work began on that code in 2007.
Deneron says despite not having the custom election code confirmed, the chief and council have governed for three-year terms since 2007.
Windspeaker also reports a May 2019 election was pushed to June 2020, as the current chief and council said based on past precedent, a three-year term was sanctioned and was reinforced through the “alleged custom election code.”
Forthcoming dates to know
The Acho Dene Koe First Nation states that under its custom election code, nominees must pay all debts over $500 to the First Nation – or businesses it owns – by January 21.
Nominations will be open for 15 days from January 22 to February 5.
Nominee appeals must be filed by February 12 and resolved by February 19.
Members 18 and over as of January 22, 2021 will receive their ballots in the mail starting February 24.
The election will be held on April 14 and can be appealed until April 24.
Election appeals must be heard by May 12, with the last date in office for the current chief and council being May 14.
Mary Beckett will be the chief electoral officer, while Garth Wallbridge will hear appeals.