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Indians Must Reside On Reserve To Vote, Band Told By Ottawa: Major Implications For Elected Bands

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE/JULY 1977      v07 n06 p09  
REGINA - A band council election on the Muscowpetung reserve has been overturned by the federal Privy Council in a ruling which may have wide Implications for other Saskatchewan reserves.

The Privy Council, which is the only body which can adjudicate band elections, said the Muscowpetung election of Feb.22 was improper because band members voted who were not "ordinarily resident" on the reserve.

The ruling was based on Section 77.1 of the Indian Act which declares only "a number of a band who is of the full age of 21 years and is ordinarily resident on the reserve is qualified to vote".

An estimated 26 non-resident band members voted in the election.

Peter Dubois, who is deposed as chief as a result of the ruling, said "it appears there is no alternative" but to challenge the ruling in court. Dubois said the matter is now in the hands of his lawyer.

The ruling could immediately affect six other Saskatchewan reserves where recent elections have been challenged by band members on the basis of the residency requirement. The six bands are Mistawasis, Kinistino and Nut Lake in the Saskatoon district, and Pasqua, Peepeekisis and Okanese in Touchwood File Hills-Qu'appelle; according to department of Indian affairs regional staff.

But the ruling may have wider implications for all Saskatchewan bands which conduct their elections in accordance with DIA regulations.

The ruling directly challenges the standing policy of the FSI which calls for participation of off-reserve Indians in reserve affairs.

And it is also a source of annoyance to Paul Jaiswell, director of band management in the DIA's regional office, who said the Indian Act and election regulations must be revised to permit off-reserve voting.

The Muscowpetung ruling has resulted in a complete stand-still in band business since mid-June.

With no elected officials, the band's programs are in limbo and no band employees can be paid.

Dubois said the situation may have irreparably damaged a proposed joint program between Muscowpetung and the neighbouring Pasqua band for construction of a school to serve both reserves.

According to Jaiswell, once an election has been overturned, there is no provision in the Indian Act or regulations for maintenance of government or management of the reserve.

And it is unknown, particularly with Dubois' court challenge; when the minister of Indian affairs will decide to call a new election,

It is also not known when the Privy Council will deal with the six other election challenges which have been forwarded to Ottawa from regional office.

Jaiswell said there have been more election challenges in the first six months of 1977 than there have ever been during any similar period.

These challenges, he argued, represent a positive development among the populace of Indian reserves.

In the past; many bands have disregarded election regulations with no objections from the band membership, he said.

"But now they are becoming more aware of their responsibilities and authorities, and are exercising them. ...It is a people development."

Peter Dubois Paul Jaiswell
Peter Dubois
...no other choice
Paul Jaiswell
...personally objects