Three Norway House Cree Nation Band Councillors Engaged in Corrupt Practice in Local Election
NORWAY HOUSE, MB, Jan. 20 – On January 18, 2009 the Norway House Cree Nation (“NHCN”) Election Appeal Committee (“EAC”) has found that three Band Councillors engaged in corrupt practice during the March 2006 NHCN Chief and Council election.Prior to the March 16, 2006 NHCN Chief and Council election, Eliza Clarke, Mike Muswagon and Langford Saunders were incumbent elected Councillors and candidates for reelection. Just days before the election they signed and delivered 90 etters promising new homes or trailers and also had delivered
furniture and appliances to homes of numerous electors. The EAC found that the actions of Clarke, Muswagon and Saunders did constitute corrupt practice. As a result, the NHCN Election Procedures Act requires that those three Councillor positions be considered vacant.
An appeal of the election of these three candidates was made to the EAC based on corrupt practice. The appeal was launched by four other candidates of the March 2006 election, Alphius Wilson, Andrew Simpson, Henry Moore and Hubert Hart.
The members of the EAC were politically appointed by the previous Chief and Council that included the three candidates. On May 10, 2007 the EAC dismissed the appeal. As a result, on June 6, 2007 the appellants sought a judicial review of the EAC decision in Federal Court. On August 18, 2008 the Court referred the matter back to the EAC and instructed it to consider the law on corrupt practice and also consider three other Federal Court decisions that Chief Marcel Balfour won when he was an elected NHCN Councillor in February and March 2006. At that time, the Court found Eliza Clarke, Mike Muswagon and Langford Saunders, along with former Council or Fred Muskego and former NHCN Chief now current Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Ron Evans all engaged in unlawful conduct, influence peddling and blackmail against Marcel Balfour.
In response to the decision NHCN Chief Marcel Balfour said “I am saddened these individuals engaged in corrupt practice when they were elected officials. However, their activity is certainly not reflective of the rest of Council or the NHCN Band as a whole, just these individuals and anyone they were working with. In this context, it is actually a good day for democracy for all NHCN citizens and all Canadians and we extend our congratulations to the appellants for their hard work and perseverance. Giving away homes, furniture and appliances during an election is corrupt practice. As another pronouncement from the Court on these individuals it is clear: unlawful conduct, influence peddling, blackmail and now corrupt practice in elections has no place in a free and democratic society.”
“It has been over two years since our election and this matter has interfered with the governing of the Cree Nation. Delay was caused by restrictions in our election law and by the respondents. I am glad the EAC made the right decision and now the people can replace these vacant Council positions in a timely manner” Chief Balfour stated.
Chief Balfour added “We have already engaged in a renewed process involving our people to change our election law, a process the previous leadership denied our people despite the law’s mandatory requirement to do so. The EAC’s decision requiring a by-election and our electoral reform will finally erase the legacy of previous unlawful conduct, set a bold new direction for our people, and will allow Council and I to finally get on with providing the proper leadership and good governance that our people justly deserve.”
Norway House Cree Nation is one of the largest First Nations in Manitoba with an on reserve population of over 5,500 people and is located about 850 kilometers north of Winnipeg.
For further information: contact Chief Marcel Balfour at (204) 232-9990, or at [email protected]