An Algonquin community in Quebec is facing a political crisis that may force a new band election.
“People are not happy with the leadership in the community,” said Velma Stanger, a member of the Timiskaming First Nation.
Stanger has 193 signatures on a petition calling for a vote.
According to the band’s election code, that’s enough for a new election.
Stanger said 53 per cent of the community has signed her petition, but there’s a problem.
Nobody has the records of who voted in the last election – only that 364 ballots were cast.
According to the electoral officer, all the records from the last election were destroyed.
“We needed that list in order to visit all the people who voted,” said Stanger.
The petition states that by signing, signees confirm that they voted.
But the band council said that’s not enough.
They asked community members to come sign the same petition again at council, this time as a sworn legal statement, or affidavit.
“We left it open for a month for people to come in and sign,” said Chief Wayne McKenzie.
“Like I said, we weren’t against the petition, we’re letting people have their freedom of speech and freedom to do as they want to do, nobody signed that petition.”
McKenzie said that many people who signed the petition were misled by Stanger.
And the petition itself is retaliation for the band council doing its job.
“The only reason they’re doing it is to try to save HRSD, the corporation on the reserve,” he said.
McKenzie is referring to the Algonquin Nation Human Resources and Sustainable Development Corporation.
ANHRSD is mandated to help train Algonquin in employment skills.
McKenzie said when he asked for justification for certain expenses, they refused.
“They came out swinging when we started asking about this, and then they throw this petition,” he said.
As the director for ANHRSD, Stanger said the expenses have been explained to council.
She added that the petition is born out of community frustration.
Conrad Polson is a former chief. He said he doesn’t like where the council is heading.
“My concern is the impacts on our children and grandchildren,” he told APTN News. “Those are going to be the ones footing the bill for the next little while.”
Polson pointed to the looming sale of Steve’s Gas Bar as an example.
He said there’s something fishy about council wanting to buy a gas station from one of it’s councillors for $350,000.
Polson said he thinks the money spent buying and fixing the gas station can be better spent.
“If you do the math, we could build a couple of gas stations, maybe even a little mall,” he said.
McKenzie agreed the station is a fixer upper, but counters that it is profitable and in an excellent location.
“We’re not going to get into a deal unless all the environmental studies are done, feasibility studies business plan, if it’s not feasible, we’re not going to get into it,” McKenzie said.
Nearly a year after the petition was submitted, the petitioners have called for an election on April 21.
“I’m just hoping that we get a lot of people out to vote, because that will say…that message will be a good one to the chief and council here that maybe it’s time to go,” said Stanger.
McKenzie said the current council will not recognize any election.
He said according to the code, only the council can call an election.
And they have no intention to do so before the end of its current mandate in 2020.