The lineups were long at the Bigstone Cree Nation polling booth at Edmonton’s Continental Inn on Oct. 29. That would have been a discouragement in itself, but for someone determined to vote for chief and council, the wait would be worth it.
Apparently Renae Beaver was one of those. She says in a letter that she spent 20 minutes in one line and then 90 minutes in another – only to be told that the polls had closed and she wouldn’t be able to vote. This was after she found out she wasn’t on the voters’ list.
Call the electoral officer, she was told. She did, but didn’t get through, and in any case it was already too late.
Beaver is one of several people – according to Bigstone Empowerment Society member Travis A. Gladue – who are talking about legal action to settle their grievances.
“This goes against my Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” says Beaver. “I have already contacted the United Nations and Indian Affairs about this matter. I am not the only band member who was unable to vote.”
Gladue sent two other letters out last week on the same subject – one by a member who was unable to vote and one who was. All three were Edmonton residents attempting to vote at the Continental Inn. It seems part of the problem was the officers were working off an old list.
Gladue says an appeal of the election results has been launched – he thinks by one of the candidates. The letters are part of the appeal.
Speaking of the letters, one is from a Bill C-31 member who did get to vote. Viessha Mackenzie says she was voting for the first time in a BCN election and got to vote when others in the line-up didn’t. Beaver was one of them; she’s a full-status member and for some reason wasn’t on the list.
“It’s not right,” says Mackenzie. “We’re all band members and shouldn’t be excluded.”
Calls to the Bigstone electoral officer had not been returned by press time.