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Hearings complete in Burns Lake Band election contest

Decision from judge yet to be made
Results from the Burns Lake Band chief election from April 14, 2021 is being contested in court, with hearings completed on April 4 and 5. (Eddie Huband photo/Lakes District News)

Federal court hearings were completed on April 4 and 5 in the case involving the dispute of the results from the Burns Lake Band chief election, which took place on April 14, 2021.

The election was won by Clayton Charlie with 24 votes, followed by Albert Gerow with 23 votes Ryan Tibbetts with 22 votes and Dan George with four votes.

The applicant in the case is Kelsey Lorentz, a Burns Lake Band member, and the respondents in the case are Clayton Charlie, and elections officer Loreen Suhr.

According to court files, Lorentz issued the application to contest the election on the grounds that it was conducted in the contravention of the First Nations Elections Act, and that the contravention was likely to effect the result.

Counsel for Lorentz used affidavits from eight individuals to suggest that Suhr failed to properly notify all electors, failed to deliver mail-in ballot packages despite the efforts of Lorentz and other electors to request them, and failed to ensure electors received mail-in ballots in a timely way.

READ MORE: Burns Lake band chief election being contested in court

Furthermore, Lorentz’s counsel argued that there was an improper delegation of electoral officer duties to a candidate.

The applicant’s record states, “The electoral officer’s reliance on Mr. Charlie deputized him such that Mr. Charlie was acting both as a candidate for office and as an integral part of the electoral process, in the capacity of a deputy electoral officer. This conflation of candidate and electoral officer raises a serious appearance of conflict of interest. This is exacerbated by the fact that Mr. Charlie was delivering voting packages and collecting marked ballots at the same time, thereby requiring electors to vote in his presence or immediate vicinity.”

READ MORE: Update on Burns Lake Band chief election case

In dispute of the claims, counsel for Charlie and Suhr claimed in the respondents record that Lorentz, whose mother is a political ally turned rival of the elected chief, is pointing to minor infractions or irregularities in the hopes of thrusting the band into a third election for a single term of chief.

“To do so serves no interest of the band, and instead serves only the political interests of the applicant’s mother. Similarly, the applicant fails to meet his burden to show contraventions the respondents record states. Regarding the serious allegation of obstruction, Lorentz does not address the elements of that offence nor does he bring evidence that could show such a breach,” the respondents counsel for Suhr and Charlie record states.

At the conclusion of the hearings, the Federal Supreme Court Judge overseeing the case Honourable Justice Paul Favel told both sides that he would take some time to consider his decision in a timely matter. No official time frame was set on when the final decision will come.

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
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