October 11, 2016
Re: Abegweit First Nation Federal Court Application
The Abegweit First Nation Band Council brought an Application to the Federal Court of Canada seeking a declaration that Abegweit’s Custom Election Code was unconstitutional and should be amended to allow for off-Reserve Band members to vote in Band elections.
The Application was brought after a plebiscite on the matter failed to achieve the mandatory 75% support for the Custom Election Code to be amended.
The Federal Court has held that it does not have the jurisdiction to grant the Application. The Court stated that there is no underlying proceeding, such as an election, now pending before the Band. The Court also found that there was no evidence that any Band member has challenged the Election Code. The Court made a specific reference to the fact that, despite notification of the Band Council’s Application being posted at the Band office, on its website, and also published in the local newspaper; no person took the opportunity to make submissions or present evidence to support the Band Council’s Application.
During the Hearing of the Application the Court noted that the goal of the Band Council was noble in trying to secure the right for off-Reserve Band members to vote in Band elections, but it still found that it had no jurisdiction to order that the Custom Election Code be amended at this time.