Norway House Cree Nation

Norway House Cree Nation

November 16, 2009 11:52 ET

Norway House Cree Nation Passes Changes to Its Election Law

Successful vote ensures fair elections and election appeals, and spells out a standard of conduct that the First Nation's elected leaders must follow or be subject to recall

NORWAY HOUSE CREE NATION, MANITOBA--(Marketwire - Nov. 16, 2009) - Members of Norway House Cree Nation (NHCN) voted at a General Band meeting on November 12 and 13, 2009 to pass major revisions to the Nation's Election Procedures Act (EPA). More than a year after a first attempt to create new election rules failed to get enough votes, subsequent workshops, meetings and discussions took place to obtain more input for some new rules that resulted in a 'Yes' vote.

Chief Marcel Balfour announced that the newly-revised election law, renamed the "Electors' Code", moves a little closer toward NHCN's traditional approach to good governance. The new law allows Band members more control over election practices by providing processes to ensure fair, transparent and accountable elections, and to hold elected officials accountable for their actions in-between elections.

"For the first time since Indian Act elections were forced upon us over 50 years ago, the people of NHCN have made changes to the way leadership is selected," explained Chief Balfour. "Prior leadership did not follow our law and they dictated what changes were to be considered and voted on. Since 1997, Band members made at least 6 formal attempts to change the EPA, and they were all ignored. I am proud that the people of NHCN continued to demanded local electoral reform and took back control of our election process."

The changes to the NHCN election law involve three main components: the creation of an independent Electors' Commission to oversee election and governance practices, changes in the election appeal process, and the creation of a fair and transparent process that NHCN members can use to recall a Chief or any Councillor who violates a code of conduct set by the people. The revised election law also spells out minimum eligibility requirements that candidates for Chief and Council offices must meet.

The people and Chief and Council will jointly select the new Electors' Commission who will oversee elections in place of Chief and Council as had been done in the past. They will also oversee appeal processes. Current appeals made by electors have been delayed due to unclear provisions in the former EPA resulting in judicial reviews to the Federal Court. New improvements to the election appeal process in the Electors' Code are designed to prevent delays involving such appeals. The Electors' Code also clearly defines a fair process that can lead to the recall and removal of a Chief or Councillor.

"In our recent past, the previous Chief and some Councillors were engaged in influence peddling, blackmail and other unlawful conduct, including corrupt practice in the last election. This required involvement from the Federal Court and some have taken years to resolve. Our new election law will now provide a mechanism for the people to deal with these issues," Chief Balfour stated, adding "this is a great day for the evolution of democracy in NHCN, and is yet another step forward in the restoration of political accountability and good governance."

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