Wesley Sam wins the Burns Lake Band election and is now the new chief. (Submitted photo/Lakes District News)

Wesley Sam wins the Burns Lake Band election and is now the new chief. (Submitted photo/Lakes District News)

Wesley Sam tops Burns Lake Band election polls

The Ts’il Kaz Koh (TKK) First Nation has a new chief, but a familiar one.

The Burns Lake-based Indigenous nation went to the poles Dec. 19 in a by-election to select their top councillor.

The list of candidates heading into the election were, alphabetically: Rick Favelle, Wesley Sam, and Barry Tibbett. After the 84 ballots were cast, the choice was not a close one. Wesley Sam prevailed with a total of 53 votes to Favelle’s 22 and Tibbett’s eight.

It is Sam’s second time as Ts’il Kaz Koh chief, and in fact the second time he has won the position in by-election fashion. He has also been a long-serving elected councillor.

The need for an election was triggered by the court-ordered removal of previous Chief Councillor Clayton Charlie who came to the position via election held in April 2021. The results of that election were disputed. According to court files, TKK elector Kelsey Lorentz issued an application to contest the election on the grounds that it was conducted in contravention of the First Nations Elections Act, and that the contravention was likely to affect the result. It alleged improper practices by Charlie and that election’s Electoral Officer Loreen Suhr. Charlie surpassed his next two closest challengers by a combined three votes.

“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,” said Lorentz’s document of claim. “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.”

On Sept. 8, Supreme Court Justice Paul Favel agreed that the process was questionable enough to quash the results and trigger a by-election. Calling it a “historic day…in the spirit of transparency and forward momentum,” sitting Councillors Ellen Lorentz and Cecelia Sam jointly executed a resolution to hold this by-election.

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