Eleven eligible voters who were barred from casting ballots in the Liard First Nation election advanced poll earlier this month will be allowed to vote in the regular poll on Monday.
Pauline Lund, the chief returning officer for the election, said that the 11 names were never struck from the eligible voters list, they were only questioned for their Kaska ancestry.
Because of the uncertainty, the elections committee told Lund that the 11 people, all from Lower Post, B.C. should not vote in the advanced polls, Lund said.
“Nothing seemed to be settled when we went to the advanced polls. Because the elections committee couldn’t all meet before the advanced poll, they gave me that directive and it was just to hold these people off until the meeting on Dec. 3,” Lund said.
After the elections committee meeting on Dec. 3, the committee decided that it didn’t have the authority to strike the names from the voters list itself, and would take the question of Kaska ancestry to the First Nation’s next general assembly after the election.
In the meantime, those people will be allowed to vote in the regular poll on Monday. If they cannot make it to the polling stations, they can arrange to have a special ballot sent through Lund’s office because they missed the advanced poll, Lund said.
She said the controversy stemmed from a misunderstanding, and that the voters in question where never told explicitly that they could not vote.
But Pam Moon, one of the voters on the list, disagrees. By phone, Moon read from a letter she said was sent by the elections committee to Lund, making it clear that 11 people from Lower Post whose heritage was questioned could not vote in the advanced poll.
“Pauline, as per the election committee’s discussion on Saturday, we clearly stated that we did not want the following to vote in the advanced poll as their claim to Kaska ancestry has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. We as a committee require more time, research and discussion with legal council to make our decision. Please be advised that these people cannot vote in the advanced poll tomorrow.”
The email was signed by all members of the elections committee, Moon said.
Moon said she also received a letter from Lund herself, also saying they couldn’t vote in the advanced polls.
Now that they have been allowed to vote on Monday, Moon said she’s extremely relieved.
“I’m overjoyed to know that we can vote in this election,” she said.
Even though she’s a Tahltan, she’s also an LFN citizen, Moon said. She’s not worried about the issue coming before a general assembly because the community will have to recognize that drawing lines down tribal divides is just too difficult.
“If they don’t want Tahltans voting, well, the people on the committee, some of their children are Tahltan as well. My brother-in-law’s children are Kaska and Tahltan. If we as Tahltans can’t vote, does that mean his children can’t vote as well?
“It’s going to get really complicated if they get to the point where they say ‘Tahltans can’t vote’. In Lower Post, all of the kids are mixed Tahltan and Kaska. I’m Tahltan, and Irish and Cherokee. Why point a finger at Tahltans?”
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