Complaints about how elections are run are more common than not. In fact it would be strange if there weren’t any. This is especially true in Bigstone Cree Nation elections where there are some sticky issues that seem to defy easy solutions.
Bigstone has long prided itself on being open to participation of off-reserve members. Former chief Gordon Auger emphasized the point in an interview with The Leader some years ago. He said Bigstone, unlike many other First Nations, provided the benefits of membership to its members no matter where they live, and this of course included the right to vote for chief and council.
Fair enough. That claim was supported in the recent election by polling stations as far away as Fort St. John B.C. But good intentions only go so far. You have to have a system in place to make those elections work for all the people who want to participate, and in Edmonton, at least, that appeared to not be the case. Lots of people (one estimate is around 200) were left outside when the doors closed. Members in good standing say they were not allowed to vote, after standing in line for a long time to show their credentials. The voters’ list was apparently not up to date, and whatever system was in place was not up to the demand for ballots on that day.
None of what we have heard, by the way, suggests any conspiracy or bias against off-reserve members. But it certainly suggests a system that offered poor service. Even if you give the benefit of the doubt (which we are willing to do, but some band members aren’t), it isn’t good enough. Then again, even if the system runs as smoothly as it should, and everybody who wants to gets to vote, the emerging conflict between on-reserve and off-reserve members isn’t so easily solved.