After a group of Liard First Nation citizens took it upon themselves to organize elections for chief and council, the question of whether the federal government will pay for it remains unanswered.
On Sept. 14, 80 Liard citizens set up an election committee to oversee the vote after Chief Daniel Morris and council failed to set up the committee.
The First Nation’s regularly-scheduled election is supposed to take place sometime in December.
But officials with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) won’t say whether they will hand out funds earmarked for the election to the Liard citizens.
Since the First Nation has been placed under third-party management in 2014, INAC transfers LFN funds to a Vancouver-based company, Ganhada Management Group, that delivers core services to Liard citizens.
“We are supportive of the community in their desire for timely, predictable and transparent elections,” INAC spokesperson Valerie Hache told the News in an email.
“As such, we have initiated a dialogue with the Liard First Nation Chief and Council regarding their plans for the election.”
INAC wouldn’t say how much money was earmarked for the election or whether it had instructed Ganhada not to give the citizen-led election committee money.
Instead the federal department sent the News several boilerplate statements saying it doesn’t get involved in LFN elections.
The News couldn’t reach Morris by press time.
Back in September, George Morgan told the News he was assured by Ganhada the money would be handed out for the election.
Morgan has been a vocal critic of Morris ever since the First Nation went into third-party management.
He lost to Morris in the 2013 election by a few votes, and has already announced he plans to run for chief.
“I’m not sure that’s what INAC is going to do,” he told the News on Thursday, when asked whether INAC would only hand over the money to chief and council.
The department sent the chief and council a letter asking about the election, he said.
The citizen-led election committee, which Morgan is not part of, has sent letters to INAC and chief and council saying it’s prepared to run the election, he said.
Morgan started publicly criticizing Morris back in January when the Yukon government and LFN signed a resource management agreement.
Acting as a spokesperson for the group Kaska Concerned about Land Protection and Good Government, Morgan said at the time no consultation was done.
The agreement also included a $500,000 payment to the First Nation for “community wellness and capacity development.”
The Yukon government confirmed to the News the money was transferred to the LFN on Jan. 22.
It’s not known what has been done with the money to date.
Were INAC to not recognize the citizen-led election committee, it’s not clear what would happen after Morris’ term expires on Dec. 14.
“Is INAC going to continue to accept Daniel Morris as the chief?” Morgan asked.
Liard citizens, he said, are ready to go to court to make sure the election takes place.
“Whether the current chief likes it or not, an election will happen,” he said. “It’s inevitable.”
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org