A judge has dismissed a case by former MLA Pauline Frost challenging the results of the 2021 territorial election in the Vuntut Gwitchin riding.
The results in the riding, where Liberal MLA Frost ran against NDP candidate Annie Blake, came to a perfect tie. As a result, a name was drawn at random in order to declare Blake the eventual winner and elected MLA for the riding.
Frost’s legal challenge hinged on whether Christopher Schafer — a Vuntut Gwitchin citizen who was incarcerated in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre during the election — was entitled to vote in the northern riding.
“He was properly found to be a resident of Old Crow by the returning officer for the purpose of the Act,” wrote Justice Suzanne Duncan in a decision released on Aug. 5.
The justice acknowledged that Schafer was a resident of Old Crow in 1999. Since then, he has only returned to Old Crow once since 1999. He left the community after he was convicted of a violent sexual assault.
Since then, Schafer has had few opportunities to return to the community, being incarcerated in the Yukon or British Columbia for most of the previous two decades.
He voted in the most recent territorial election by inter-district special ballot.
“Prolonged absences from home on their own are not sufficient to override a demonstrated intention to return,” wrote Justice Duncan.
“The reality of Christopher Schafer’s situation is that there is no suggestion that he is not who he says he is, or that he does not have strong ties to Old Crow – through his previous residence, his Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation citizenship and identity, and his family connections. There is no evidence of fraud, corruption or dishonesty. The concerns raised by the petitioner are procedural formalities, and these cannot override the realities in such a way as to deny Christopher Schafer the right to vote,” she continued.
“I feel that this is good news for Old Crow as we can work towards moving forward and unify as a community. There is much strength, potential and opportunity in the community with our citizens,” said Blake in a statement, who was in Old Crow when the decision was released.
“I’m honoured and excited to continue this work for and with all Vuntut Gwitchin citizens. Together we are stronger as we work to move forward,” she said.
NDP leader Kate White added that the party “couldn’t be happier that she will be able to continue her work.”
Frost’s lawyer James Tucker said they are reviewing the decision.
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