The Liard First Nation’s long-awaited election is now scheduled to take place June 5 — despite protests from the current chief.
The LFN election committee announced April 21 that Colleen Craft had been appointed as chief returning officer.
The election campaign will start May 5 and run for 31 days.
But in a statement released April 27, chief Daniel Morris claims the election committee is acting “irregularly.”
“The election committee has taken this step despite the many concerns that our Elders and membership have raised about proceeding with a customary election at this time,” Morris said in the statement about calling the election.
He wants an investigation into the circumstances that led to the First Nation being placed under third-party management.
But that happened over three years ago and it’s not clear why Morris is only asking for an investigation now.
The regularly scheduled election was supposed to take place by December 2016 but Morris failed to call the required meeting to establish an election committee. After a number of citizens sued him and the First Nation, and under the watchful eye of the Canada’s federal court, he called a special community meeting Feb. 4 and the election was set for April 10.
But a day after candidate papers were in, the chief returning officer — Lois Moorcroft — resigned.
In his statement Morris also publicly admitted for the first time the First Nation had hired a private investigator to look into alleged financial improprieties.
The News had previously learned that the First Nation had hired an investigator from Xpera, a major Canadian investigative firm with 23 offices nationwide, to look into these allegations.
The News requested an interview with Morris through the Vancouver-based communications firm that sent out the statement but did not hear back before deadline.
The investigation would likely target Liard McMillan, who was chief from 2003 to 2013, before Morris was elected.
But McMillan is the one who oversaw the financial investigation into Morris’ handling of the First Nation finances back in 2005 and 2006.
A first report at the time found there was “clear evidence of misappropriation, misdirection, and what would appear to be an unrelenting theft of funds into the hundreds of thousands of dollars on the part of former Chief Daniel Morris.”
KPMG conducted a second audit, but concluded it couldn’t prove the money Morris took came from INAC funds because all funds ended up on the same bank account. The RCMP declined to lay charges.
In December 2016, when the News learned about the private investigator, McMillan said he welcomed any review of his term.
He denied any allegation of mismanagement and said the First Nation always submitted audits under his tenure.
“You’d think that if Daniel Morris and his investigator found anything they could nail me for, that would (have) happened a long ago,” he said. “They’re looking to play a game of smoke and mirrors and defame me.”
LFN hasn’t filed a single audit with INAC for the past three years.
In letters filed to Canada’s federal court, which is monitoring the situation, Morris also complains about the election committee not working with him.
In the same letter, Morris asked for a breakdown of the election committee’s expenses, including how much Moorcroft was paid. He also asked for a copy of her contract.
Morris is also accusing INAC of interfering with the election, because the election committee will only “co-operate” with the federal department and not chief and council. He doesn’t mention the fact he is also running for re-election.
Finally, Morris claims the election committee is using the wrong version of the LFN election regulations because the election committee, he said, couldn’t prove to him the ones they were using had been ratified by council.
The News couldn’t reach the election committee co-chair or the chief returning officer by press time.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org