A federal judge has thrown out last year’s election results in Muskrat Dam First Nation, ruling the community’s election committee failed to “exercise procedural fairness.”
An application for judicial review was launched by former chief Gordon Beardy, arguing he was subsequently prevented from seeking another term by the committee despite having 34 community nominations.
The incumbent chief had expressed an intent to resign on Aug. 14, 2015, following a public meeting where community members expressed concern about the band leadership.
While he later said he wished to serve out the rest of his term, which was to end in July of this year, an election committee was formed.
On Sept, 11 2015 that committee held a nomination meeting, with the majority of the 14 people in attendance voting to bar candidates who had previously resigned from seeking re-election.
Three days later former Ontario regional chief Stan Beardy was declared the new chief by acclamation.
Following the election, previous band council Anthony Carfagnini contacted financial institutions advising them the election results were in dispute and they should only communicate through the previous leadership, resulting in the band’s bank accounts being frozen.
Those accounts were unfrozen by court order on Dec. 31.
In a decision last month, Federal Court of Canada Justice Cecily Strickland ordered the results quashed with a new election to be held within six months of April 7.
She acknowledged the “frustration” from the election committee that resignations had triggered a vote with the resigning parties seeking re-election and resulting in financial costs to the community.
Despite that, Strickland wrote the election committee
The judge also took significant issue with the steps taken to freeze the band’s bank accounts without pursuing legal action.
“Further, Gordon Beardy’s subsequent actions in failing to pursue an appeal but then, without Court order, causing the banking institutions to freeze the MDFN’s bank accounts putting its finances in disarray and causing hardship to individual community members cannot be condoned,” Strickland wrote.
“This was done with the intent of forcing the community to accede to his demands for a new election in which he would be permitted to run, and was not intended to protect any financial interests of that community.
The chief and council elected in September are to remain in office until the new election is held.