Senators Commission Band Election Study

Thursday, May 07, 2009 at 15:45



The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has launched a study to examine issues related to Indian Act elections.


In particular, the committee will be looking at the impacts of the two-year term of office currently prescribed by the Indian Act, as well as the establishment of fixed or “common day” elections, and the possible use of removal or recall mechanisms should terms of office be extended.


The committee will also be seeking the views of First Nations on whether and how changes in these areas could enhance the political accountability of the leadership to its citizens.


At a committee hearing in Ottawa last night, the senior associate of the Institute on Governance said he may have a way to solve election disputes on First Nations.


John Graham testified that a Metis settlement appeals tribunal has been very successful.


He said it could serve as a model for a similar dispute mechanism on First Nations — and that the tribunals could be set up on a regional basis, rather than on each First Nation.


Graham also said a Senate-like body could be set up, with elders representing the different clans in a First Nation.


He said that might solve the problem in which elections tend to pit representatives of one clan against another.


But he said imposing any kind of change from Ottawa won’t work — it has to be approved by the bands themselves.


As to whether a system could be set up so that all First Nations leaders are elected on the same day, Ottawa University law school professor Bradford Morse testified that one date for all First Nations in the country likely won’t work — because there are too many regional issues.


He said one day might be good for bands in Saskatchewan, but it could be bad for the Cree in James Bay if it’s goose hunting season.


Morse also noted that traditional feasts are held at different times, as well.


He said the best solution might be for each band in a tribal council to hold elections on the same day.


But even then, he said a funeral on one reserve could force that election to be postponed.


Morse said the best thing would be to allow bands to work that issue out themselves.


The committee chair, Senator Gerry St. Germain, says the study will be undertaken in the coming months.