A woman named Autumn EagleSpeaker says during the 2020 Blood Tribe election, near the end of last November, about 300 people were turned away while waiting in line at the polling station in Lethbridge.
She said many had waited for hours outside in the cold and were turned away. She also said it took longer to process votes due to COVID-19 restrictions. Some have voiced concerns over the way extra wait times were handled by the Blood Tribe.
According to EagleSpeaker, there was also a last-minute change in location for a polling station in Calgary, with some not being not being informed of the change and therefore not being able to cast their vote.
As a result of her concerns, EagleSpeaker said she felt compelled to launch an appeal of the election results.
EagleSpeaker said she believes that had those people been allowed to vote, they could have swung the election results in a different way.
There was only a difference of 77 votes between incumbent Chief Roy Fox and his closest opponent.
There were also only a few votes between those who were elected to be councillors and some who had lost.
EagleSpeaker said she is now also questioning the appeal process itself.
“When I took it on, I thought I was going to be presenting to the appeal board, and that’s who I was going to be going against with this whole case,” she said. “But it was the appeal board and their lawyers — and the chief electoral officer and his lawyers and the tribe and their lawyers — and they were actually in the same room.”
EagleSpeaker attended the appeal hearing on Jan. 29, along with 11 other witnesses. She said she believes more would have come forward had they not been worried about retribution, adding some were even worried about losing their jobs if they were linked to the Blood Tribe administration.
On Feb. 5., an appeal board found there was no corrupt practice in connection with the election and that there was no violation of the bylaw or regulations affecting the outcome of the election.
Former councillor and elder Keith Chiefmoon said government accountability has been an ongoing concern for many years now.
“Those that weren’t allowed to vote were denied their inherent and Indigenous right to democracy,” he stated.
Former deputy chief electoral officer Roger Prairie Chicken said he would like to see reforms that bring the Blood Tribe election process in line with national and international regulations.
“Streamline the whole thing to the election process of Canada,” he said.
“You know, I do believe the voting age for Canada is 18 and we’re still stuck at 21. So those are some of the things we’re looking at.”
On Thursday the Blood Tribe released a statement on behalf Tribal Government and External Affairs.
“The appeal process was open and transparent and respected the rights of all the parties,” the statement read.
EagleSpeaker said her next steps include seeking a judicial review of the entire election process from the federal government.
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