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Home News FSIN says elections will move forward amid “baseless” objections

FSIN says elections will move forward amid “baseless” objections

FSIN says elections will move forward amid “baseless” objections
Chiefs and councillors of member First Nations in Saskatchewan can vote in the FSIN elections. (Photo courtesy FSIN/Facebook)

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said the organization is moving forward with elections on October 28 despite objections from four prospective candidates and a number of senators.

The FSIN called allegations of electoral improprieties “baseless.”

“The actions of these candidates and those members of the Senate is an attempt to subvert the resolutions and legislation of the FSIN Chiefs-in-Assembly,” the FSIN said in a statement.

The announcement is in response to allegations of interference and undue influence from acting chief Clarence Bellegarde and incumbent Bobby Cameron. 

Claude Friday, Christopher Merasty, Colin Stonechild and Wallace Fox said they had submitted all the required information to become official candidates for positions on the FSIN executive, but when the list of candidates was released they weren’t on it.

The would-be candidates say there were “discrepancies” with how the nomination process was handled by the FSIN election credentials committee. 

They said they were only notified shortly prior to the official list being finalized that they had to submit more documents to do with allegedly incomplete criminal record checks. 

Fox, who is a former chief of the Onion Lake Cree Nation, said his lawyer told him that his criminal record check was in the proper context and was eligible for the FSIN election. 

“This document was taken from the RCMP detachment in Onion Lake and in no way altered,” Fox said. “There are other candidates who had similar concerns.”

Merasty said when he enquired as to why his name wasn’t on the list he was told a lawyer made the final decision to exclude him from the ballot.

Fox pleaded guilty for one count of assault in 2016 but served no jail time and Merasty has a prior conviction for driving under the influence — but they say those records wouldn’t disqualify them from running. They also say they weren’t given specific reasons for being disqualified.

Senators joined in asking the FSIN to examine those allegations and postpone elections in case any disqualified candidates were in fact eligible.

“The majority of Senators in the FSIN want to support all candidates to have a fair and equal opportunity to run in our election,” FSIN senator Roland Crowe said. 

“Our Institution needs to be transparent with our democratic process if we want good candidates to come forward to run in our elections.”

Senator Chuck Thomas sent a letter to the FSIN addressed to Belgarde requesting a meeting to address those concerns and alleging mismanagement of the process.

“The wrongful identification of any candidate having a criminal record over the last five years or not ever having a criminal record is cause for a major liability of the FSIN and election officials,” Thomas wrote.

“It is the position of the FSIN Senate that these outstanding election issues have to be resolved internally and to date we do not see any political will to get them resolved.” 

The FSIN said its current Election Act, which was passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly in 2017, is “clear” with respect to the documents that prospective candidates must provide to the credentials committee and the deadline to be eligible as a candidate. 

The FSIN said the current 13 candidates provided “all the required materials and documents, including appropriate criminal record documents, by the deadline.

While the disqualified candidates said they weren’t notified FSIN said letters were sent by the credentials committee to those candidates who were decided to be ineligible. 

The FSIN said any allegations that elections organizers were subject to undue influence or interference in the execution of their duties is “without merit, and completely unfounded.”

“Allegations that the Credentials Committee made any of its decisions in contravention of the FSIN Election Act, or under undue influence, are completely unfounded,” the FSIN said. 

All five of the FSIN executive positions are open. There are 13 candidates who were approved to the ballot by the credentials committee. 

Chiefs and councillors of member First Nations can vote in the FSIN elections.