Ottawa appeals court ruling that limits First Nations’ ability to postpone elections 

By Maan Alhmidi

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA- Indigenous Services Canada will appeal a Federal Court ruling that limits First Nations’ ability to postpone the election of chiefs and councils during the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said.

The department developed regulations last year to allow First Nation councils to delay elections and extend the terms of their chiefs and councillors to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Miller said the regulations help First Nations avoid a critical governance gap that might be caused by their inability to hold elections during the pandemic.

“First Nations have used these regulations as a key tool to help manage COVID-19 risks within their communities,” Miller said in a statement.

Early this month, the Federal Court ruled that a section of the regulations, related to custom election codes, is invalid.

Miller said his department decided to appeal the ruling to ensure First Nations, Inuit and Metis have the authority to delay their elections.

“We want to ensure that communities continue to have the necessary resources and tools available to them to manage the ongoing public health situation in a way that prioritizes the well-being of their communities.”

Between April 8, 2020, and March 22, 2021, 116 First Nations used the regulations to postpone elections to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks.

During the same period, 36 First Nations held elections under the Indian Act, 15 under the First Nations Elections Act and 65 under a community or custom process.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2021.

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