Appeals process in limbo
A group of Sand Point First Nation members who wish to appeal the results of the band’s recent election over accusations of impropriety claim they’re being prevented from doing so by the new chief.
Matt Gladu, one of the members looking to appeal the weekend election that saw Laura Airns named Sand Point chief, said the group has been told the names of those on the band’s internal election appeal committee are confidential, and claims that Airns told them any appeal of the weekend election must be submitted through her.
Neither, however, falls in line with what’s contained in the band’s custom election code, Gladu said.
“There are a lot of people ready to appeal this,” Gladu said. “The law won’t listen to us if we don’t play by the rules . . . but they’re keeping that stuff confidential.”
Sand Point member Deborah Michon also questioned who was on the election appeal committee in a letter to the editor published in Thursday’s Chronicle-Journal; in a phone interview on Friday, Michon said she also heard Airns say the members of the committee are confidential.
The Sand Point election code includes an appeal process.
However, that section of the code does not state the members of the committee are confidential.
Another Sand Point band member noted that both sides in the dispute are passionate; some online comments, however, are crossing the line into vitriol. The names of the committee members, the Sand Point member said, are being withheld out of fear they’d be harassed.
As for an appeal itself, the election code states a written appeal — verified by affidavit — should be sent by mail to the appeal board, care of the band office. Gladu claims Airns told him an appeal must be submitted directly through her; Michon corroborated that, claiming that she also heard Airns say an appeal must go through her.
There is a time element, as well: as per the code, any appeal must be submitted within 30 days of the election in question, Gladu said.
Sand Point cannot turn to the federal government for assistance in the matter, Gladu said, as the band operates via a custom code.
Earlier this week, an Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada representative told The Chronicle-Journal that such custom codes fall outside of the electoral provisions of the Indian Act, and thus the federal department cannot get involved in band elections, nor governance disputes.
Those looking to appeal the election are citing several claimed irregularities with the process, including that the ballot box — sealed with police tape — was brought home overnight by the returning officer.
Reportedly, neither the returning officer nor her deputy had time to pick up mail-in ballots prior to the closing of the polls on Saturday; thus, the count was delayed until Sunday.
When contacted on her cellphone by The Chronicle-Journal on Friday, Airns — who was a Sand Point band councillor for eight years prior to being elected chief — refused an interview request. All questions, she said, must go through Firedog, a Thunder Bay communications company that has been contracted by Sand Point.
A request for comment was then submitted to Firedog, but it garnered no response from Airns on Friday.
Sand Point has a Lake Nipigon reserve near Beardmore at the site of a former provincial park, but the reserve hasn’t been developed.