BIRCH ISLAND—The band membership of the Whitefish River First Nation voted on Saturday, September 29 to implement a new election code. The vote came following an extensive community consultation process that saw an unprecedented number of band members engaged in the process.
“The community was definitely engaged in all the work leading up to the vote,” said WRFN Ogimaa Chief Shining Turtle. “We are very excited to be moving out of the Indian Act for our elections.”
The band administration lost no time in getting the new code implemented. “Today (Monday), we are working with the Department of Indigenous Services to ensure we can use our code for the 2019 Election,” said Ogimaa Shining Turtle. “Now the real works begins to get the code operable for the next general election.”
One of the key aspects of the new code will be the extension of the terms of office for the chief and council from the Indian Act’s two years to a four-year term of office more in keeping with other government terms in Canada and Ontario.
“You had a choice between the Indian Act under section 74 and our own community developed election code,” wrote Chief Shining Turtle in a communique sent out to band members following the referendum. “The difference could not be more stark. The Indian Act, which has little to recommend to the community, and our code, which is a reflection of the voiced heard throughout the engagements. We are all humbled by this step outside the Indian Act on our elections. To everyone who voted I say ‘a job well done.’ Let us make a new start and move forward to meet the great challenges and opportunities we face.”
Chief Shining Turtle cautioned that “going forward we can expect challenges,” but added that “for now, let’s all pledge to meet those challenges, not tomorrow or next week or next year, but from this moment. I say to all our citizens, however you voted, you sent a message on our election code. We look forward to your assistance and partnership in these efforts as we implement our election code for the February 2019 election.”
The full results of the referendum were not available to The Expositor as of press time Monday.