(File photo)

Federal Supreme court judge orders new election for Burns Lake band chief

Band to uphold court verdict, current chief councillor steps down

A Federal Supreme Court judge ruled in favour of nullifying the results of a 2021 byelection for Burns Lake band chief and holding a new vote.

On Sept. 8, Justice Paul Favel ordered a new election after four months of deliberating the case, which concluded its hearings earlier this year on April 4 and 5.

Following which Burns Lake band announced in a statement that it will uphold the verdict of the court.

“Effective as of September 8, 2022, the term of office for Clayton Charlie [chief councillor] has ceased and the administration prepares to commence a byelection for chief councillor,” the band said inthe statement.

The date of the byelection has not been announced yet.

The byelection, held on April 14, 2021, saw Clayton Charlie win the election for chief by 24 votes, followed by Albert Gerow with 23 votes; Ryan Tibbetts with 22 votes and Dan George with four votes.

However, the result was contested by band member Kelsey Lorentz who stated he had not received his ballot in time for the election. Since Charlie won the election by a single vote, Lorentz argued that his vote could have changed the outcome of the election.

According to federal court files, Lorentz issued the application to contest the election on the grounds it was conducted in contravention of the First Nation Elections Act. Lorentz said in his claim that he was unable to vote due to the mistakes made by Electoral Officer Loreen Suhr as well as interference by a candidate – Charlie – actions he said had a direct impact on the outcome of the election.

Counsel for Lorentz used affidavits from eight individuals to suggest that the election officer failed to properly notify all electors, failed to deliver mail-in ballot packages despite the efforts of Lorentz and other electors to request them, and failed to ensure electors received mail-in ballots in a timely way.

Furthermore, Lorentz’s counsel also argued there was an improper delegation of electoral officer duties to a candidate, with Charlie being deputized (as deputy electoral officer) to deliver voting packages and collect marked ballots at the same time, thereby requiring electors to vote in his presence or immediate vicinity.

READ MORE: Burns Lake band chief election being contested in court

READ MORE: Hearings complete in Burns Lake Band election contest

Charlie, who is currently the chief, was unavailable for a comment as he was away on a bereavement leave.

-With files from Eddie Huband