A file photo of the road leading into the community of Fort Liard. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The Acho Dene Koe First Nation is applying to a federal court to “preserve the right to challenge the appeal committee’s reasons” for the annulment of a recent election for chief.
That election took place in April but, following two appeals, one-man appeal committee Garth Wallbridge ruled in June that the election for chief should be re-run. The original election was supposed to take place in June 2020 but was twice delayed, then rearranged, and has now been annulled.
In a Thursday news release, the First Nation said it decided to apply to a federal court at a July 21 special meeting of its council. The results of this year’s council election stand despite the ongoing saga of the separate election for chief.
The court application does not itself challenge Wallbridge’s decision, but instead preserves the First Nation’s ability to do so at a later date. The First Nation says it hasn’t yet received Wallbridge’s rationale for deciding to scrap the April 26 election’s results, so does not know which, if any, elements of that rationale it will challenge.
“The deadline to file in federal court is July 23 and, if council does not file now, it could lose the opportunity to challenge the orders in the event that the reasons reveal problems in the appeal officer’s decision-making,” the First Nation said in its news release.
“Once council receives the appeal committee’s reasons, it will consider whether it is necessary to proceed with the federal court challenge or withdraw it.”
Wallbridge said in June a new election should be held “with all due haste, as quickly as can reasonably be done.” So far, a re-run has yet to be scheduled.
Speaking to Cabin Radio earlier this week, band manager Boyd Clark said a new election cannot be called or scheduled until council receives the appeal committee’s full report outlining the decision to request one.
In an initial decision, in which Wallbridge outlined that request but not the full rationale, he said the preliminary results – which suggested incumbent Gene Hope would remain chief by three votes – were void and a new election must happen with former chief Floyd Bertrand on the ballot.
Wallbridge also said a different election officer must be hired for the new election.
The First Nation said its council has asked Wallbridge to “identify the legal defects in the previous election which were the bases for the orders that he issued,” but has not yet received a response. In particular, the First Nation said it sought clarity on who is eligible to run for chief base on Wallbridge’s decision.
Wallbridge told Cabin Radio his role as adjudicator means he cannot comment.