Acho Dene Koe First Nation re-elects Eugene Hope as chief
The Acho Dene Koe First Nation has re-elected Eugene Hope as chief.
Hope won the position by gathering 148 votes, just three more than opponent James Duntra’s 145. A third contender, Steven Steeves, received 24.
The three-vote margin triggered a recount, after which Hope was declared the winner.
Six council members were elected from the 10 nominees.
The new council will comprise Brenda Berreault, Donny Bertrand, Julia Capot Blanc, Hillary Deneron, Morris McLeod, and Dennis Nelson.
The results are considered preliminary until an appeal period ends on May 6. If appeals are filed, they must be resolved before May 24.
If no appeals are filed or substantiated, the new council will be sworn in on May 25.
The election took place after controversy over who could be on the ballot and whether or not the First Nation had appropriately postponed its election in the past year.
Former chief Floyd Bertrand took the First Nation to court to have his name returned to the ballot after he was deemed ineligible. A federal court rejected Bertrand’s argument.
Bertrand also challenged the mechanism by which Acho Dene Koe’s chief and council twice postponed the First Nation’s election.
The federal court ruled in Bertrand’s favour, finding the First Nation had extended the term of chief and council without the authority to do so. A judge said the federal government had illegally introduced regulations allowing leaders of First Nations to extend their terms in office, while Acho Dene Koe’s custom election code did not expressly allow any similar extension.
The immediate effect on the Acho Dene Koe First Nation’s governance was minimal as an election was already scheduled by the time that ruling was published.
Chief Hope said on Tuesday the election had “challenged our relationships, but we must remember we are all Acho Dene Koe family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.”
He wrote on Facebook: “As a community, we need to collectively move to address the issues that exist and focus on making the lives of all our members better, irrelevant of where they live and their political views.”
Hope said he and council will identify goals for the next three years once sworn in. He highlighted a desire to create a new election code and finalize self-governance.