October 9, 2020
Notice to Membership Regarding December 2020 Election
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways. We are asked to keep our circle small, keep our distance from others, not gather in large groups, continually wash our hands and wear masks in stores.
Although we were able to successfully contain the outbreak in Alert Bay in April & May, we did have one member pass away from contracting COVID.
This December, five council terms expire. Council appointed an Electoral Officer, Deputy Electoral Officer and appointed the members of the Election Appeal Board in August. We now have one vacancy due to the recent passing of Councillor J. Alfred.
We all saw the COVID-19 positive case numbers increasing, both in other areas of Canada, as well as in BC, in September.
Our Electoral Officer recommended that the election be postponed due to the safety concerns of our members and his team.
A Special Council Meeting was convened on Monday, October 5, 2020. Councillors whose terms were expiring were informed of this meeting. Due to a conflict of interest, they did not attend. Councillors E. Alfred, V. Brotchie, S. Hunt and K. Speck and I met with our lawyer and Senior Administrator to discuss whether or not we should postpone the election. This was a very hard discussion to have as we each believe in the principles of democracy.
This quorum of Council has decided that in order to ensure the safety of our community members, the terms for D. Taylor, D. Isaac, J. Macko and R. Mountain will be extended as allowed for in the First Nations Election
Cancellation and Postponement Regulations (Prevention of Diseases), section 4 (1). This section states: The council of a First Nation whose chief and councillors are chosen according to the custom of the First Nation may extend the term of office of the chief and councillors if it is necessary to prevent, mitigate or control the spread of diseases on its reserve, even if the custom does not provide for such a situation.
The ‘Namgis Election Regulations state that elections for councillors will take place on the second Friday in December. The vacant council position will remain vacant until December 2021.
Attached are some questions and answers that may help you understand why this decision was made.
Chief Don Svanvik
Questions & Answers:
Q: Why not proceed with the election like BC is currently doing?
A: There is no guarantee that COVID-19 will not be present again in our community in December. We are being extra cautious to ensure the safety of our community. Our school opened later than public schools and our classes were initially split into morning and afternoon cohorts to provide distancing in class. Our offices are still not fully open at this time.
Q: Why not hold a by-election to fill the vacant seat?
A: Our council can function with eight councillors and the Chief. Our regulations would require that this term end in December 2021.
Q: Can local members receive mail-in ballots like we do for the off-reserve members?
A: Our Election Regulations only state ballots will be mailed out where members do not have access to a polling station.
Q: What is the risk of exposure?
A: Nominations: During our December 2019 election, there were 13 nominated candidates. Nominations require two members to sign the form as well as the candidate to accept the nomination. This would require, at minimum, 39 interactions and does not count others who may go down to second a nomination during the day.
All Candidates Meeting: As we do not have the technology for an interactive virtual all-candidates meeting. Candidates and members could be exposed to possible risks.
Advance Poll/Voting Day: Voters, election staff as well as members in attendance to count ballots could potentially be exposed to risk.
Q: Will the term of the councillors elected in 2021 be only two years?
A: No, the term of office is for three years, expiring in December 2024.
Q: What change to the cycle of elections?
A: The cycle has been an election for Chief in May followed by an election for five councillors in December; no election the following year and then an election for four councillors in December. The new cycle will have an election each year, one for five councillors in December followed by our councillors the next December and then the Chief election in May.
Q: Why not use electronic voting like the Land Code Referendum?
A: The exposure risk for nominations would still be there. The cost is approximately $20,000. We have missed the deadline to appoint a new Electoral Officer to conduct electronic voting.