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K'atlodeeche to vote on election rules

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River Reserve (Dec 05/05) - Members of K'atlodeeche First Nation on the Hay River Reserve will vote in a Dec. 7 referendum on proposed changes to the way their leaders are chosen.

Among the more significant changes, one proposal in the referendum would eliminate a separate vote for chief. Instead, the highest vote-getter among those running for council would become chief.

"It used to be done that way at one time," says Chief Roy Fabian, noting many people think there is often a person on council who would make a good chief.

The proposed changes would also increase the number of councillors to six from the current four, plus a chief.

Fabian says under the federal Indian Act it is recommended that bands have one councillor for every 100 members.

"We figured we should go for six councillors," he says, noting there are over 550 members of the band.

Another change would be longer terms of office - from the current two to three years.

The referendum is also proposes to raise the voting age to 19 from 18.

Fabian says band members felt the extra year would make a difference in the level of maturity of voters. "Kids are still in school at 18."

The chief says some people felt that having 18-year-olds vote was putting too much pressure on young people. "They shouldn't be saddled with these issues at an early age."

Under the proposed changes, band members would also have to reside on the reserve for at least two years before running for council, although they would still be able to vote.

"The culture is different here on the reserve," Fabian notes.

Other proposed changes include establishing a mail-in ballot system to allow band members living elsewhere to vote more easily, increasing the nomination period from 30 to 45 days, and increasing the number of signatures needed to launch a recall process of a chief or councillor from 25 to 50. Candidates would also not be allowed to nominate other candidates.

The proposals were developed with the help of a consultant and have been reviewed by a lawyer.

"It's something we've been working on over the years," Fabian says.

K'atlodeeche First Nation established a formal election code in 1990, and there have only been minor changes since, he notes. If approved, the changes would come into effect for the election set for next summer.