Wasaho Cree Nation / FORT SEVERN – The Covid-19 pandemic makes the times we live in more problematic in our communities and worldwide. The uncertainty over a period of time and the conditions that call out for a specialized set of circumstances, additional emergency support and resources and concrete actions to respond to curb the significant rise of active cases in our region make for “unprecedented times.”
As we have watched the spread of COVID-19 through our northern communities, we are alarmed to learn that there was no pandemic committee or coordinated plan for Fort Severn First Nation. The new council has since put in proper measures and protocols.
It’s now time to address the 2021 band custom election issue, so the newly elected Chief and Council can focus on protecting our children, elders and families in our community.
Fort Severn First Nation calls on the Liberal Party of Canada and Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to investigate the actions of senior official Anne Scotton (Scotton), Regional Director General including her intrusive behaviour that undermines the traditional governance and livelihood of the community. Some First Nations share these concerns of Scotton along with other issues.
The band membership directed the appointed Election Committee to call for an election on November 12, 2021, due to non-confidence of the council. The band custom election took place on December 9, 2021, and Chief Lorraine Crow was elected. Furthermore, acclamation for candidates running for council ensued and was followed by voting to determine the next Deputy Chief. As a result, Christopher Koostachin was elected Deputy Chief. The newly elected band council passed a resolution of the election results recognizing the new Chief and Council. This resolution was emailed on December 10, 2021, to ISC.
The election dispute was launched by former Chief Paul Burke and band manager Irene Miles in communication with ISC, in particular with Scotton. ISC and Scotton should not have engaged or responded in any fashion regarding the band custom election.
According to ISC’s website on Leadership selection in self-governing First Nations, “regarding a community or custom leadership selection process, ISC is never involved in the election processes held by self-governing First Nations, nor will it interpret, decide on the validity of the process, or resolve election appeals. The department’s role is limited to recording the election results provided by the First Nation.”
Scotton’s actions and interference are evident, as outlined in her letter dated December 17, 2021, which is included in Fort Severn’s final electoral report. Clearly, Scotton undermined the integrity of the community’s democracy and caused havoc in the community. Paternalism and her colonial mentality are not welcome in our community.
Fort Severn First Nation affirms their authority of who they elect to represent them and upholds their right to use band custom practices and electoral processes. The band custom election is sanctified and legally binding, and Scotton will not dictate our governance and democracy. Therefore, the 2021 band custom electoral process and results stand.
The newly elected Chief and Council do not recognize this as a valid dispute because ISC did not comply with their mandate regarding leadership selection in self-governing First Nations. Therefore, we petition Scotton to rescind her correspondence and recommendation.
The newly elected Chief and Council call for immediate remedial action for the removal of Scotton as Regional Director General as the trust with Scotton is irrevocably broken and petition another senior official to take over the file to work with Fort Severn First Nation immediately.
Chief Lorraine Crow
Deputy Chief Christopher Koostachin
Councillor Lloyd Mathews
Councillor Cheryl Thomas