M’CHIGEENG – Incumbent M’Chigeeng chief Linda Debassige was returned to the position of chief with a landslide victory over candidate Terry Debassige in the Saturday, March 28 band council elections. Ms. Debassige tallied 223 votes to Mr. Debassige’s 49. There were 281 votes cast with nine spoiled ballots.
In the contest for one of the 10 seats at the council table, incumbent Brian Bisson (217 votes), incumbent Dennis Corbiere (169 votes), incumbent Daughness Migwans (184 votes), incumbent Henry Panamick Sr. (180 votes), Sam Debassige (169 votes), Charles Beaudin (167 votes), incumbent Thomas Hare (165 votes), Jeanine H. Debassige (146 votes), Martin (Relic) Debassige (134 votes) and Joe Hare (127 votes) were successful.
Incumbent Jesse Charles Beaudin (123 votes) fell short of the mark. There were 281 ballots cast for councillor with five spoiled ballots.
The election proceeded despite numerous calls in the community for a postponement.
A statement from the Indigenous Services minister’s press secretary on March 27 called for the postponement of First Nation band council elections saying, “We recognize the public health risks of holding an election during a pandemic. We continue to follow the recommendation of public health experts to practice physical distancing and avoiding large groups wherever possible. For these reasons and out of concern for community members’ well-being, we do not recommend proceeding with elections at this time.”
The statement, however, went on to say that the final decision to postpone or continue an election is in the hands of each community in accordance with its laws, customs and governance structure.
In a statement released by M’Chigeeng electoral officer Peggy Manitowabi, she noted that “M’Chigeeng First Nations Elections held their elections on Saturday, March 28 from 9 am to 6 pm at the M’Chigeeng Arena but with extra safety precautions. It was a sanitized, safe, healthy environment to vote. There was a hand sanitizing station, physical distancing was in place, one polling booth to ensure only one voter was in the polling station at a time and the polling booth was sanitized after each use. We had single-use pencils for each voter to use and disposed of after each use, disposable latex gloves and hand sanitizer was available for each voter. M’Chigeeng on reserve eligible voters were also encouraged and given the opportunity to vote by mail-in ballot. A nurse also screened the election team which included taking our temperature prior to opening of the polls.”