Allegations of voter suppression and voting irregularities are circulating on the Sturgeon Lake First Nation.
Dozens of citizens held a protest in Prince Albert on Tuesday to call attention to the recent election on the reserve.
According to a release from an administrator with the First Nation, chief candidate Henry Felix was disqualified from the vote because he owes money to the band.
Therefore, the band is recognizing Craig Bighead as the winner of the March 27th vote.
Felix held a press conference in the ballroom of the Travelodge Hotel, where he said his disqualification happened two days after the polls had closed.
He also said he finished the election with 325 votes, well ahead of Bighead who finished in second spot with 283 votes.
Felix said he believes officials with the election could not live with the fact he won the vote, and took steps to disqualify him.
Felix refused to take any questions after the press conference, but his brother, A.J. Felix, let his feelings be known.
A prominent treaty advocate, Felix said he doesn’t believe the election was valid due to widespread voting irregularities.
He acknowledged his brother does owe some money — but says it’s not to the band, it’s to the court.
He also claimed propaganda literature was disseminated during the voting process, which is against the rules.
Kavia Burns, another supporter for Henry Felix, said the same thing.
She told reporters she feels that some people who have power in the band are scared an electoral win by Henry Felix will change all that:
“And they don’t want to let go of that and they’re spreading all these rumours that people are going to get fired, which is not true. No one’s getting fired.”
Felix has sought legal counsel and received the backing of two election scrutineers who spoke out in support of him.
After the press conference, Felix and his supporters carried their protest over to the local Aboriginal Affairs office in Prince Albert.
No one from the band’s administration office was immediately available for comment.
A spokeswoman from Aboriginal Affairs says they have no role to play in the dispute as the vote happened under a band custom election act.
Jody Woollam says band members can turn to internal dispute mechanisms to settle the matter.
Failing that, Woollam says they can go through the courts.