The chief of the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun says he isn’t taking part in the First Nation’s upcoming election, which he considers “unlawful.”
Chief Ed Champion told the News he wasn’t even in the territory when he heard the election had been called.
“I was in Winnipeg in December for the Assembly of First Nations election when I found out about this,” he said.
“I’m not running in this election because if I did, I’d have to agree with it. The question is, what happens on March 6?”
The election to choose one chief, one deputy chief, four councillors and one youth councillor is scheduled to take place on March 5.
Champion, elected in Nov. 2012, is only two years into his four-year term.
He said he has a few theories about why council had called the election.
The first one has to do with Victoria Gold Corp., which struck an exploration agreement with the First Nation back in Dec. 2011. A letter of intent signed at the time lays the groundwork for the company to stake new parcels on Nacho Nyak Dun land adjacent to Victoria’s Dublin Gulch Project.
Champion said that when he was elected the following year, there was a review of all the mining agreements throughout the traditional territory.
One that came to surface as needing a lot more investigation was Victoria Gold, he said.
“When that became evident, a re-negotiation team was put together and they were to report back to the assembly periodically. It got to the point where it became very contentious.”
Champion said council fired the re-negotiation team without providing him with any explanation.
Another source of contention is plans for a comprehensive review of the Nacho Nyak Dun’s constitution.
“There have been a number of changes to our constitution over the past 20 years, which haven’t necessarily filtered their way through the acts and regulations, so things aren’t in alignment,” he said.
“That’s what has allowed for an unlawful election to take place. Since becoming chief I’ve been pushing for a legislative review but nothing has happened.”
No councillors responded to a request for comment by Monday morning.
Chief Electoral Officer Georgina Leslie said her responsibility was limited to running the election once it’s been called.
“Neither myself nor the election committee have the mandate to question a council resolution,” she wrote in a email.
“That would go back to the ‘people.’”
Champion said his authority as chief – another contentious issue within the First Nation – had been greatly diminished.
Some members of the First Nation still believe in the chief’s authority, while others don’t, he added.
“When you think the Nacho Nyak Dun chief today has authority, you’re wrong. This is one of the issues why this is where we’re at.”
Champion said he had the First Nation’s legal team speak to council about the validity of the election.
If they go ahead with it on March 5, it’s “an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
“March 6 is when the bodies start getting sorted out.”
Contact Myles Dolphin at firstname.lastname@example.org