Things have gone from bad to worse for this Alberta First Nation.
The Bigstone Cree Nation, already embroiled in controversy after their chief and council awarded themselves nearly $700,000 in bonuses, is now facing three separate appeals to their recent election following claims of faulty voter lists, ineligible voters and double counting.
Big bonuses for chief and council members
As reported by the National Post earlier this Fall, Chief Gordon Auger and his council requested one time dividend cheques of $70,000 for the chief and $60,000 for the councillors from the band owned company Mistassini Aboriginal Contractors Ltd. (MACL); a company whose board of directors is comprised solely of the chief and the council.
Viewed as a “retirement package” by Chief Auger for all the “countless days and hours of family and personal sacrifices,” he and the councillors claimed these payments were justified by virtue of their hard work.
Band members opposed, serve letter from lawyer
However, not everyone agreed. Councillor Josie Auger wrote a letter opposing the move saying “The history of increasing the transitional allowance without a membership meeting and referendum breed irresponsibility and a lack of accountability to membership.”
Band member Travis Gladue-Beauregard, the founder of the Bigstone Empowerment Society, a group which seeks to increase transparency at Bigstone, told The Post Millennial “Our leadership fails to recognize that they have been blinded by their own incentives.”
Law firm Biamonte has sent a letter to the chief and council on behalf of the band members pointing out that the bonus cheques were “in breach of the Bigstone Cree First Nation Conflict of Interest Policy” and recommending that they be returned to the Bigstone Cree Nation “so as to avoid any potential further legal action against them.”
Unfortunately, the problems at Bigstone don’t stop with conflict of interest concerns.
According to documents obtained by The Post Millennial, the recent elections held October 29th have also been cast into doubt with three separate appeals being launched against both specific local results as well as the election as a whole.
Ida Noskiye, a resident of the Chipewyan Lake community, is appealing the election of the councillor for Chipewyan Lake on the grounds that the vote totals changed from the count at the local polling station to the final count at the central polling station in Wabasca.
Charity Jardine, a member of the Calling Lake community, is appealing the election of the councillor for Calling Lake citing incorrect voter lists, ineligible voters being allowed to vote, failure to properly vet for i.d., and lack of Cree interpreters preventing some voters from voting.
Appealing the entire election results, Felix Schroder of Wabasca is claiming that according to the previous election rules of 2014, which were not updated by the council for 2018, elections are supposed to be held in September, not in late October as they were.
Additionally, an Electors Committee was never established which led to confusion about whether Bill C-31 status First Nation’s could vote or not. Schroder also alleges that multiple voter lists were used at different polling locals and that many candidates did not have the proper paperwork filed in order to run.
John Gullion, one of the co-signers of Schroder’s appeal, told The Post Millennial “Due diligence was not done the electoral officers part. I believe he did not familiarize himself with the Bigstone Cree Nation electoral code.”
The appeals were heard by an arbitrator this past week and a ruling is expected sometime next week.