The recent changes which Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) membership voted to make to the band’s election act are being met as good news by one observer.

Ken Coates, a professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon said membership voting to allow regular electronic voting in band elections is a major development and a sign of the growing influence of First Nations.

“It recognizes the fact that the nations are now exercising governance control way beyond their boundaries,” he said.

Coates explained some recent child welfare agreements signed between First Nations and the federal government are a good example of how First Nations influence are expanding outside their reserve lands and an example of their expanding jurisdiction in regards to their membership.

Overall Coates said making electronic voting regularly available to membership will make LLRIB stronger as a nation and lead to better political engagement. He added giving people who live off reserve the chance to more easily participate in elections could lead to some changes in priorities for some First Nations as they may have large numbers of people not living in the community.

“The people who are off reserve may have different priorities,” he said.

LLRIB is not the first band which will be allowing members to participate in politics electronically. Coates explained the Nisga’a Nation in British Columbia has been using technology to engage their membership, which is scattered all around that province for quite sometime. He added some Indigenous nations in the United States and New Zealand as well use different methods to engage their citizens who are spread across wide areas.

While he believes the overall impact of electronic voting will be positive Coates did stress that some communities are likely to see some major challenges as more people come into the political process, as members living on reserve may not see eye to eye with urban members in regards to issues like land claim settlements. However, Coates said he is optimistic about LLRIB and what increased participation could mean for their politics.

“I think in La Ronge, the band has been creative, it’s been forward looking they’ve been inclusive rather then exclusive, so I think the La Ronge arrangement’s going to go quite smoothly,” he said.