Northern News Services
Monday, June 11, 2007
FORT SMITH - A court injunction has halted a planned July 6 by-election at Salt River First Nation (SRFN) to replace ousted Chief Frieda Martselos.
She won the injunction from the Federal Court of Canada at a June 7 hearing in Calgary.
In his decision, Justice Edmond P. Blanchard wrote that there is "considerable uncertainty" in the Fort Smith-based SRFN about its elected leadership.
"This situation must not be further exasperated," he wrote.
Blanchard added the injunction will preserve the status quo until the court can determine the validity of the May 7 band council resolution that removed Martselos.
She is seeking a judicial review of her ouster by the Federal Court of Canada. A date for a hearing on that matter has not yet been set.
Blanchard wrote that, once the judicial review is complete, a by-election could be re-scheduled and held, if necessary.
"Further, the affairs of the SRFN can continue to be conducted by the acting chief and council," he wrote.
Blanchard rejected the idea an injunction would disrupt the community, concluding more harm would result to the SRFN if the by-election was held and Martselos later successfully challenged her removal.
The band's election regulations would prevent Martselos' participation in the by-election, the judge noted.
"In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the applicant would suffer irreparable harm should the interlocutory injunction not be granted," he wrote.
Martselos - the wife of Fort Smith Mayor Peter Martselos - was elected on April 30, but was removed by band council a week later.
When contacted, she declined to comment on the injunction.
Acting Chief Mike Beaver, one of the four council members who ousted Martselos, said he hadn't expected the injunction to be granted.
"But she got it and we'll just have to go from there," he said.
Beaver said the injunction doesn't prevent a by-election for a band councillor, which was also set for July 6.
The acting chief said council will now have to decide whether the vote for a councillor will go ahead.