A file photo of the road leading into the community of Fort Liard. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Fort Liard’s Acho Dene Koe First Nation has chosen not to pursue further court action regarding its delayed and controversial process to elect a chief.
According to a news release posted to the First Nation’s Facebook page on Thursday, the option of going to court to question an appeal committee’s earlier ruling – that April’s election must be held again, with former chief Floyd Bertrand no longer disqualified from running – is “too costly.”
The First Nation had already applied to a federal court in July, an application that in essence reserved the right to launch a more detailed legal challenge once it had inspected the appeal committee’s full rationale for that ruling.
Acho Dene Koe surveyed its members last week about what to do. According to Thursday’s news release, about 60 percent of respondents – it wasn’t clear how many people took part in the survey – wanted court action to proceed.
However, the First Nation said the expected cost of that legal action was sufficiently high that its council had “decided not to proceed with further litigation.”
Instead, the First Nation said it interpreted the majority vote for court action as a need for “clarity concerning the debt requirement prior to holding the election for chief.”
Bertrand had been ruled ineligible to run in April’s election because of a reported debt of $27,500 owed to the First Nation for more than a decade. The one-man appeal committee – lawyer Garth Wallbridge – ruled there was not enough evidence to show the money was actually owed, and too much time had now passed to bar Bertrand from running.
Thursday’s news release stated the First Nation, having chosen not to pursue the request of the majority of survey respondents, will now consult community members about which debt rules, if any, should apply in future elections.
There remains no date scheduled for a re-run of April’s chief election.
According to Thursday’s news release, council is “continuing to take the necessary steps to call an election for chief” such as selecting a date, recruiting an elections officer, and finding representatives for an appeal committee.
An update on work to reschedule the election is expected at a council meeting next month.