The Liard First Nation’s chief and council have missed the deadline to hold a regularly scheduled election and there is now no telling when when a vote will take place.
The term of LFN chief Daniel Morris expired on Dec. 16 and despite efforts from a group of Liard citizens, no election took place.
Last minute negotiations did happen, former LFN executive director George Morgan told the News, between Morris and an independent election committee.
But Morgan accuses INAC of derailing the talks when it offered $40,000 to Morris to hold a community meeting to officially establish an election committee.
“They directly interfered in the negotiations by giving this guy a bargaining chip,” Morgan said. “That bargaining chip should have never been on the table.”
In a Dec. 13 letter addressed to Morris and deputy chief Walter Carlick, an INAC representative informs them the department has approved their proposal for a community meeting, granting them $40,000.
“Given the dispute over elections in the Liard First Nation, and related court action, it is extremely important for the community meeting to be successful,” wrote Robin Bradasch, INAC’s director of governance for the Yukon.
In exchange for the money, INAC asked that Morris provide a report from the meeting.
INAC confirmed to the News they were providing funding for the meeting.
“The Department is providing funding for a community meeting to be held early in the new year, where membership can come together to address governance issues, including setting a course for an election,” a spokesperson said.
The funding agreement is to be signed with the Daylu Dena Council in Lower Post, B.C.
INAC said that’s because unlike LFN, the Daylu Dena Council is not under third-party management.
But since last summer Morgan and others have claimed that the Canada Revenue Agency seized LFN’s bank accounts over unpaid taxes.
In November the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) sued the First Nation, claiming it was owed over $134,000.
Morgan and other citizens first raised concerns last summer after chief and council missed a first series of deadlines to establish the committee that oversees the election.
In September a group of citizens took it upon themselves to organize a community meeting to set up the election committee.
But the group accused INAC of withholding funds they needed to hold the election.
The federal department, it seems, didn’t recognize the legitimacy of the committee.
In October, members of the committee and Liard elders filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Morris, a number of councillors and the federal government.
It asked the court to recognize the legitimacy of the independent election committee. It also sought to bar Morris from using the LFN bank account once his term expires.
In the community, discontent is growing, Morgan said.
“There is growing frustration among the members,” he said. “It’s common knowledge on the ground his term is over.”
Morgan plans to run as a candidate in the election. He lost the previous election by 22 votes to Morris.
INAC, Morris and the independent committee are due back in court next January. Morgan said he hopes the court will fix a date to hear the case at that time.
“If we lose our election law we lose everything,” Morgan said. “Somebody could easily become a dictator again and that’s not what we want.”
Elder Alfred Chief told the News it took a lot of work to get LFN its current Election Act.
“It took us two referendums to get the ability to get free elections,” he said.
The second referendum ended 27 years of a hereditary chief system.
“We’re at real risk of losing our democracy,” Morgan said.
INAC repeated its claims that because LFN has a custom election code, it has no jurisdiction to interpret or enforce the code’s provisions.
Morris didn’t return phone calls by press time.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org