By Greg Higgins, battlefordsNOW
A lawyer and Red Pheasant First Nation band member is hoping a judge will overturn the results of the community’s 2016 election over allegations of corruption.
Several band members from the reserve, located 150 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, have come forward with affidavits claiming Chief Clint Wuttunee and the rest of council tampered with the March 2016 election. Some of those band members showed up Tuesday at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench as the appeal began. Proceedings were expected to continue through Thursday.
Michelle Good is the applicant representing band members accusing the chief and council of vote-buying and not informing the band membership of a decision to opt in to a new election act extending council tenures from two years to four.
Good is a Red Pheasant band member herself and said the corruption has to stop.
“I have been very concerned for many years now about the failure of our respective band councils to abide by the principals of free, fair and honest elections,” Good said. “Everyone knows [about vote buying]. You just have to go on Facebook during an election and everybody is selling their ballot and everybody is buying it.”
This isn’t the first time members of the Red Pheasant council have been accused of buying votes.
Former chief Charles Meechance pleaded guilty to fraud in 2009 for vote-buying in the 2005 election, the results of which were overturned by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Good was retired from law, but started practising again after filing the election appeal. She said Red Pheasant has the right to run a democratic election, but the reserve lacks the resources Elections Canada has to prevent corruption.
“It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to election time and it has to stop. Our people are suffering in every respect, yet the band council members are not. It’s contrary to everything that is Canadian.”
Good said she shouldn’t have to prove corruption occurred to overturn the election if she can prove council didn’t inform band members of he decision to opt in to the new election act.
The appeal of the election results has been tied up in the courts for over a year. Good blamed the respondents, saying they have been purposely dragging the process on to try and get her to drop the case.
“Giving up is not in my nature,” Good said. “I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to bring in a simple application, when there is obvious evidence that corruption occurred. It shouldn’t be like that.”
Current Red Pheasant First Nation Chief Clint Wuttunee didn’t have much to say when asked for comment. He simply claimed the applicant’s case was based on “hearsay” and would be overturned in court.
“We will just let the court process deal with it,” Wuttunee said.
None of the allegations against the Red Pheasant chief or council has been proven in court.
The case was expected to continue Thursday in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench