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Sagamok Anishnawbek General Election Dates Confirmed
Posted: May 25, 2020

Sagamok Anishnawbek General Election Dates Confirmed

Online public opinion poll guides Council’s decision   

by Robert Porter, Sagamok Communicatons


Image may contain: text that says 'Sagamok Anishnawbek GENERAL ELECTION 2020 NOMINATION MEETING Tuesday, June 30 ELECTION DAY Wednesday, August 12'May 25, 2020 - Sagamok Anishnawbek Chief and Council made the decision today to proceed with the upcoming general election as scheduled.  With the approval of Band Council Resolution No. 2020-05-03, the Nomination Meeting for the upcoming general election will be held on Tuesday, June 30 and Election Day will be on Wednesday, August 12.   

Informing the Council’s decision was the results of an online public opinion poll conducted by Sagamok Communications which found that a very large majority agreed with the statement that the First Nation’s general election proceed as regularly scheduled.

The Council decided to have the opinion poll conducted after the April 16 recommendations by the Minister of Indigenous Services for First Nations with upcoming elections to not proceeds with those elections at this time, primarily due to the public health risks associated with large gatherings.  The Minister acknowledged in his statement that the decision to hold or postpone an election ultimately lies with a community’s leadership. 

The online opinion poll found that of the 120 responses received, 82.5% indicated their support for the general election to occur as scheduled every two years.  It remained open for online audiences to respond starting on Thursday, May 21 and closed at noon on Sunday, May 24. 

 

Comments provided from poll participants gave Council further insight into their opinions. 

The poll found that those that agreed with continuing with the scheduled general election in August generally hold the belief that it is safe to hold an election or that pandemic conditions are not likely to change much in the future to change the perception of risk as well as desire to see the continuity of democratic processes despite the current pandemic situation. 

The poll also found that those that agreed with delaying the upcoming general election generally described apprehension with the level of risk involved and concern with the capability of ensuring the safety of voters and the general community. 

 

New federal regulations allow First Nations to delay elections as part of pandemic response

The federal government passed a new regulation called the First Nation Election Cancellation and Postponement Regulations (Prevention of Diseases) on April 7, 2020 with the purpose of allowing First Nations to put their regularly scheduled elections on hold if they find it to be “necessary to prevent, mitigate or control the spread of diseases on the reserve” without causing a gap in leadership. 

These new regulations recognize that for some First Nations, holding their regular general elections could place even more stress on already strained resources and seriously destabilize the First Nation’s ability to respond to the pandemic. 

The new regulations allow First Nations to cancel or postpone their elections, allowing term extensions for a sitting Chief and Council for up to six months with a limit of 2 six-month term extensions allowed meaning that a term can be extended for up to a full year.  The regulation is only in effect for one year, expiring on April 7 2021. 

 

Election decision up to each First Nation

First Nation communities with elections scheduled this spring and summer have approached decisions concerning their own elections in their own ways, considerate of both pandemic concerns and of continuing with democratic processes and selection of leadership in their communities.   Decisions are essentially a balancing act of health concerns vs. access to democratic processes. 

On the one hand, there are First Nations that chose to go ahead with their elections as scheduled, opting to push on-line and mail-in ballot voting, carefully managing in-person voting and offering added voting accessibility with home visits for shut-ins and elders to cast their ballots in the presence of an elections officer. 

These First Nations believe that they can either manage the public health risks in allowing in-person polling or they feel that they can provide sufficient opportunities for voters to cast their ballots using on-line platforms , mail-in ballots or in-home visits. 

On the other hand, other First Nations have already chosen to use the new federal regulations to postpone their elections for short periods.  Some believe that the current situation continues to pose risks of transmission into their communities for in-person voting to occur, with similar concerns over mail-in ballots.  Others do not believe that enough of their members have sufficient connectivity to the internet to allow them to participate in on-line voting platforms.  Others remain under emergency closure and restricting their off-reserve members from visiting their communities during the pandemic period to limit transmission.  

These First Nations believe that they can either not sufficiently managed the public health risks involved with allowing in-person polling or they feel that they can not provide sufficient opportunities for voters to cast their ballots using on-line platforms, mail-in ballots or in-home visits. 

 

 

Click here to find the First Nations Election Cancellation and Postponement Regulations (Prevention of Diseases) (SOR/2020-84)

Click here to read the Minister of Indigenous Services' recommendation to First Nations to delay their elections at this time