M’Chigeeng band member questions election style

To the Expositor:

I am writing in response to the September 21, 2011 Expositor article, ‘M’Chigeeng election called into question’ (Page 5).

Unfortunately, debate and controversy seem to follow Joe Hare politically. The band administration fired a reputable and knowledgeable electoral officer, Vaughn Johnston, who was trained by the very department who funds the M’Chigeeng community. Regardless, when Mr. Johnston was recently fired abruptly from his electoral job, he was replaced by Linda Debassige.

Martin Debassige (candidate for chief) indicated that the chief and council were not informed of the change in electoral officers. Mr. Debassige, “…claimed that this deception was under the direction of incumbent, and newly elected chief, Joe Hare.” It should be noted, and many First Nation grassroots members would agree, that a chief carries considerable power in his/her position. Nothing passes the chief unnoticed or his/her influence.

I personally would not hesitate to say that a chief’s power should not be underestimated, however, not all First Nation leaders in such positions engage in such controversial and socially corrosive behaviours. Mr. Hare explains to The Expositor that the issues of Martin Debassige are “bogus” and goes on to say that it was Brenda Ense, Band CAO, who had hired and fired Mr. Johnston! M’Chigeeng community members can come to their own conclusions regarding the chief’s comments.

As a member of the M’Chigeeng community, I am familiar with the controversy that surrounds my community and other the First Nation communities who experience similar issues. Ironically, it appears that the same people are elected every year to such positions. As grassroots people, we must take a hard and fast look at ourselves and vote for change if things are going to improve in our communities. Change begins and ends with you! First Nations wish to develop their communities to a point where they are self-sustaining in terms of self-government. When such First Nation socio-political issues hit the newsstands, one can only conclude that self-government is nothing but an unattainable pipe-dream. In this context, stereotypes are maintained, divisions become entrenched, and the status quo prevails.

As a M’Chigeeng member I urge the leadership, not only the chief, but the council as well, to provide the leadership necessary to bring our people into the 21st century. This leadership can only be based on transparency, accountability and re-dress and not on dysfunction and chaos that may otherwise seem to border corruption.

Patrick Corbiere
Birch Island