Thanks to a delay in the mandated notification period for nominations, the Bigstone Cree Nation election for chief and council will now be in late October.
Originally scheduled for sometime this month, voting day will now be on Monday, Oct. 29, according to a letter to the members posted on the BCN website.
The Bigstone Election Code requires a 45-day notice period before nomination day.
This was missed, due apparently to administrative error. The new nomination day is Oct. 18, with the election following two weeks later.
Up for election are the positions of chief and 10 councillors – six from Wabasca and two each from Calling Lake and Chipewyan Lake.
Thanks to a recent federal court decision, Bigstone will not be pressing its requirement that those elected must reside on reserve. That is clarified in a separate letter, also posted on the BCN website.
“Effective the October 2018 Election,” it says, “elected Chief and Council do not have to live on the reserve.”
The residency requirement was challenged in the courts after a successful candidate for council was removed following the 2015 election, because he didn’t move onto the reserve. A federal judge recently ruled this violated the Charter of Rights. Bigstone also accepts responsibility for a portion of the ex-councillor’s legal costs – at least that’s what’s indicated in the letter to members.
Speaking of the BCN members, they are being asked their opinion on the decision.
“Please come to the general membership meeting to discuss it,” the letter concludes. That meeting was last week, on Sept. 5.
Possibly also discussed at the membership meeting was the ‘cows and plows’ issue, which Bigstone members are apparently talking about these days. ‘Cows and plows’ refers to the treaty promise by the federal government to provide the start-up materials for farming. According to recent news articles this was not done, and several cash settlements in lieu have been concluded in recent months.
“There’s a petition going around,” says Travis A. Gladue of the Bigstone Empowerment Society.
What it asks for is the release of the minutes of the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) negotiations between Bigstone and the federal government, which were concluded with a settlement a few years ago. The belief, Gladue says, is that cows and plows was part of that settlement, and the members want to find out the details. The completed petition will be given to Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen, for submission to the government.
“We don’t feel comfortable giving the petition to the current council,” Gladue says, “because many current councillors worked on the TLE.”
Gladue hopes a new chief and council will be more receptive – to that and perhaps other initiatives.