Fort Liard’s Acho Dene Koe First Nation has postponed nominations for its upcoming chief and council election as the hamlet remains under a Covid-19 containment order.
The election is scheduled for April 14. Nominations had been expected to open on January 22 and run until February 5.
“At this point in time, it is unlikely the nomination period will proceed until at least the containment order is lifted,” said the First Nation’s band manager, Boyd Clark.
Fort Liard is under a containment order issued by Dr Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, after a cluster of Covid-19 cases was confirmed in the community.
The order shuts down non-essential businesses and bans gatherings. It is likely to be lifted this weekend.
Clark said the order means people interested in nominating others or running for office don’t currently have the ability to go to the First Nation’s office to acquire nomination forms, ask questions, or pay outstanding debts.
“There are a number of things that have to happen,” he said. “If any one of those are not provided, it provides the ability for someone to appeal the election after it happens.
“If they extend [the containment order] for any period of time … people have to be provided the opportunity to settle any outstanding debts.”
An information release from the First Nation posted to Facebook on Wednesday says its council will establish a “fair and reasonable timeline” for the election process once the order is lifted.
Fort Liard has confirmed six cases of Covid-19. Three remained active as of Wednesday according to the NWT government’s statistical dashboard.
As of last week, approximately 50 people were self-isolating. No new cases of Covid-19 have been announced in the community since January 20.
The Acho Dene Koe First Nation, or ADKFN, has already postponed its election twice after federal pandemic-related legislation allowed it to do so.
That legislation lets Indigenous leaders retain their roles for up to a year beyond the ordinary election date. The intent is to allow elected leaders to focus on health and safety within their community.
On Facebook, the First Nation said its leadership planned a special meeting as soon as gatherings were allowed to “ensure members maintain the full opportunity to submit nominations without contravening isolation restrictions or current public health orders affecting Fort Liard.”
The First Nation added: “Some ADKFN members are required to stay in isolation and, in these circumstances, may not be able to obtain and submit the necessary nomination and supporting documentation within the current timeline.”
The First Nation said its electoral officer cannot come to the community, which “creates practical and logistical challenges with respect to conducting the election.”
Clark said he did not know how the First Nation’s election date will be affected by the rescheduling of the nomination period.
He told Cabin Radio the federal government and chief public health officer had been informed about the situation and were helping the First Nation to navigate the dilemma.