Acho Dene Koe calls fresh halt to much-delayed election process


An Acho Dene Koe First Nation election that should have happened in June 2020 will now be further delayed after a vote to stop the current process and examine the rules.

Graeme Drew, the First Nation’s latest returning officer, says an election scheduled for September this year will now be abandoned in favour of work to amend and ratify Acho Dene Koe’s custom election coe.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Drew said the Fort Liard-based First Nation’s council had voted earlier this week to “start the election over once the amended code has been approved by its membership.”

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No timeline was given for that process to take place.

The extraordinary delay to the election of a new Acho Dene Koe chief has been prolonged by several factors.

The First Nation twice used pandemic-related federal legislation to postpone the election, then an appeals committee ordered that the results of an April 2021 election be scrapped.

Since then, a court has ruled the First Nation didn’t have the authority to postpone its election in the first place. An acting sub-chief has been appointed to provide leadership until an election is finally held.

In May, the First Nation said an election would take place in early September. But Drew says time should instead be taken to address a document responsible for many concerns about the First Nation’s elections: its custom election code.

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Custom election codes allow Indigenous peoples to establish their own election rules rather than using those set out in the federal Indian Act.

However, the exact status of the Acho Dene Koe custom election code has been disputed for years. Whether the First Nation’s code was ever ratified by its members is not clear, and there are multiple disagreements over how to interpret different sections.

“The process going forward will include a number of community meetings to engage with Acho Dene Koe First Nation members and gather feedback useful towards amending its set of rules used in recent elections,” Drew stated.

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“Following these meetings, there will be a ratification vote held among Acho Dene Koe First Nation electors to approve the rules.

“Your understanding – particularly among the past nominees – is appreciated as we proceed with what I believe to be the best way forward, that will provide clarity and reduce confusion among voters and candidates in Acho Dene Koe First Nation elections.”