October 27, 2016
Abegweit Custom Membership Code and the Abegweit Custom Election Code
Re: Abegweit Custom Membership Code and the Abegweit Custom Election Code
There have been a number of social media posts recently in relation to the Abegweit Custom Membership Code and the Abegweit Custom Election Code. As there is some inaccurate information being shared, the Band Council would like to clarify the issues.
- Membership in Abegweit First Nation is governed by the Custom Membership Code, not the Indian Act.
- The Membership Code has been in place since 1985.
- The Band Council has no authority to amend the Membership Code. The Code can only be amended by a majority vote of eligible voters.
- The Band Council has set up a community consultation meeting to engage the Abegweit community and receive feedback as to what changes should be made to the Membership Code. The date for the community consultation is November 29, 2016.
- After receiving community feedback, proposed changes to the Membership Code can be put forward to a vote.
- Any changes to the Code would have to be supported by a majority vote (50 percent plus 1) of eligible voters.
- The rules for the Abegweit First Nation Band elections are set out in the Custom Election Code.
- The Custom Election Code has been in place since 1982, and was amended in 1994.
- The Band Council has no authority to amend the Election Code. The Code can only be amended with the support of 75% of the votes cast in an amendment plebiscite.
- In November of 2009, after having previously held a community consultation on the issue, the Band Council proposed amending the Custom Election Code to allow for the off Reserve Band members to vote in Band elections.
- The proposed amendment was put to a vote. All Band members 18 years of age and older, including both on and off Reserve Band members, were eligible to vote in the Plebiscite.
- The vote failed to get the support of 75% of the votes cast. It received less than 50% of the votes cast.
- As the amendment vote failed, and as no off Reserve Band member challenged the Custom Election Code, the Band Council brought an Application in the Federal Court asking that the Band be directed to amend the Custom Election Code to allow for the off Reserve vote.
- During the Court Hearing, it was argued that not allowing off Reserve Band members to vote was unconstitutional.
- Despite the Band Council’s best efforts, in July of 2016, the Court ruled that it did not have the jurisdiction to grant the Application, in part because there was no ongoing proceeding such as an election that was pending before the Band.
- Contrary to what has incorrectly been posted on social media, the Federal Court did not dismiss the Application because “no community members were part of it”. What the Court actually relied on was that, despite the Band Council’s Application being posted at the Band office, on its website, and also published in the local newspaper, nobody said or did anything to support the Band Council’s Application.
While social media can be a valuable tool to share information and opinions, unfortunately it can also be a forum for unfounded rumours. The Band Council felt it was necessary to post this statement to clear up misleading or incorrect comments, but it does not intend to have a constant and ongoing back and forth on social media. The Band will issue factual statements and provide updates as needed to make sure that community members are kept informed. Should anyone have any questions they should feel free to contact any of the Band Council.
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