The man who initiated court action against the Dehcho’s Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADKFN) because of delayed elections has had his nomination for chief dismissed.
Former chief Floyd Bertrand has now initiated a second court action so he can be included on the April 26 ballot.
Bertrand says he has been told a debt of $27,551 from 2005 makes him ineligible to run under the First Nation’s custom election code.
“Other than a spreadsheet and a PDF, we have seen no documents to substantiate this alleged debt. We are therefore, again, having to go to federal court,” said Bertrand’s legal counsel, Orlagh O’Kelly of Field Law.
O’Kelly says it is important for Bertrand to take action now because the nation does not have a ratified customary election code and the route to appealing the decision is “ambiguous.”
“There is no appeal committee and, if there is no appeal committee, the federal court has no jurisdiction – so he could potentially lose the right to challenge it if he doesn’t do it before,” she said.
In court documents filed on March 5, O’Kelly argues the First Nation’s 2007 election code was proposed but never ratified. However, if it is to be considered valid customary law, “it cannot be said that ADKFN custom has debt requirement or an appeal mechanism.”
O’Kelly also argues that the 2021 election process was amended on February 9, 2021 in a Facebook post. Bertrand says he was unaware of any member consultation or notice prior to this amendment.
“The nomination period was amended to now close on March 2, 2021. No amendments were made to address the concerns of debt disclosure or opportunity to repay the same,” says the court documents.
The origin of the $27,551.94 debt is also being questioned. Bertrand was made aware of the debt in 2015. He received no invoices to support the debt and the timing of the amount corresponds to payments made to him during his term as chief of ADKFN. “There is no indication why the payments were made and no indication that there was an obligation to repay,” state the court documents.
Bertrand is seeking an order from the federal court to have his name added to the ballot as chief for the 2021 election.
O’Kelly first initiated court action in October 2020 on behalf of Bertrand, who at the time challenged Chief Gene Hope and council over their decision to postpone band elections. There has been no election since 2017. The election was supposed to be held in May 2019.
Hope and council, in their defence, cited Covid-19 measures and federal regulations that allowed First Nations to postpone elections for up to 12 months during the pandemic.
Bertrand’s bid to restore his name to the ballot for chief and his argument regarding ADKFN’s election postponement will be heard on March 22 and 23 in federal court.