Disenfranchised Kaska voters speak out

Ten residents of Lower Post, B.C., are accusing the Liard First Nation elections committee of tampering with the registered voters list in the race to elect a new chief and council.

Ten residents of Lower Post, B.C., are accusing the Liard First Nation elections committee of tampering with the registered voters list in the race to elect a new chief and council.

Pam Moon was born in nearby Watson Lake and says she has been a member of the Liard First Nation her entire life. She has voted in LFN elections before, most recently in 2010, and wants to vote again.

But on Wednesday, she and her two daughters, along with seven other people in the tiny B.C. town, received a letter telling them they’d been removed from the voters list.

“It feels really terrible. You have a feeling of not belonging,” she said.

The LFN election regulations say that in order to be eligible to vote a person must be both a member of the First Nation and of Kaska heritage.

Moon’s family isn’t part of the Kaska bloodline. She’s Tahltan, and Moon alleges that as a result she’s only included on the voting list when the election committee feels it is advantageous, and tossed aside when it is not.

“Because we have Tahltan ancestry, it’s just like they could use us whenever they want. We’re like their yo-yos. They let us vote when they know we like a certain person who is running, and we’re cut off again when they think we don’t. It’s quite heartbreaking,” she said.

A catch-22 is that Moon and her family can’t vote in Tahltan Central Council elections either.

“I can’t just go into Telegraph (Post) and think I can vote. We’re like misfits. We can’t vote where our people are from, and we can’t vote here where we were raised. I feel really used,” she said.

Elections committee spokeswoman Laurie Ellis said she wouldn’t comment on the “rumours” circulating about the barred voters. She said the committee would hold a meeting and send out a press release on the issue this morning, but it did not arrive by press time.

Moon said her heritage has never been questioned during elections before, and the regulations requiring voters to be of Kaska descent has never been an issue until now.

The LFN government can seem confusing because it crosses the B.C.-Yukon border. It includes a chief, who may come from Kaska traditional territory on either side of the border, plus four Watson Lake councillors and two Lower Post councillors. The deputy chief must also come from Lower Post, and together with that community’s two councillors, make up the B.C.-based contingent known as the Daylu Dena Council.

When voters go to the polls, residents from the Yukon side of the border get to vote for the chief, as well as the four Watson Lake council members. Residents from the B.C. side, like Moon and her family, cast ballots for the chief and the Daylu Dena Council members.

There are roughly 100 eligible LFN voters living in Lower Post, according to local Tahltan elder Charlie Pete. Disqualifying 10 per cent of them could have serious consequences for the legitimacy of the election, he said.

“It’s unfair,” said George Morgan, one of the candidates for chief in the coming election.

Morgan helped organize the disenfranchised voters and issued a joint press release with deputy chief candidate Mickey Carlick and Daylu Dena Council candidate Roma Walker.

“Who are these individuals to decide who does or doesn’t have Kaska blood? All of a sudden, it’s convenient for somebody that these individuals not be able to vote, when all of them voted in the last three elections. There’s some crookedness going on,” Morgan said.

“The loss of 10 voters in Lower Post could have significant repercussions in this election especially when those people would have voted for me,” said Carlick.

Under the LFN’s regulations, the elections committee is responsible for generating the voter list and supplying it to the chief returning officer, who is responsible for revising it.

Voters who feel they should be added to the list can apply to the appeals board of the elections committee. Chief Returning Officer Pauline Lund said no one has yet come forward with a complaint, but that’s likely because they’ve run out of time.

The rules say that applications will be heard on the 18th, 19th and 20th days before the election. Because the LFN election is on Dec. 16, the three-day window to appeal expired yesterday, the day Moon said she and the other nine citizens received their letters.

There’s also another quirk about this election that seems odd. Lund said the elections committee was told to use election regulations from 2004, when there are more recent regulations from 2007 that were used for the last election.

According to Lund, there were legal problems with the 2007 regulations, including a failure to ratify them at a general assembly. Morgan said the decision to use the 2004 document is an attempt at underhandedness by the elections committee because it legitimizes their decision to bar the 10 Lower Post voters.

But Liz Porter was a part of the elections committee in 2010. She said the 2007 rules were ratified, and only contained very minor changes to the 2004 document.

The News examined copies of both the 2004 and 2007 documents provided by Porter. When it comes to voter eligibility, both documents are identical. Voters must be of Kaska ancestry, but there is no requirement or mechanism for proving it.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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