Justice is Equality – Post-Corbière Report
The right to vote is a fundamental human right. It cannot be denied to First Nations citizens, whose communities rely in large part on the equal respect for the dignity of each individual member forming the collective. If First Nations argue that the inherent right to self-government is a constitutionally protected right under section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, then First Nations should be held to a high standard of accountability regarding their electoral processes.Band Custom Election Codes that were adopted as an alternative to Section 74 of the Indian Act provide the foundation for band governance for more than half of the Band Councils in Canada. In 2008, there are 334 Band Councils that use custom electoral processes to select their leadership and their off-reserve membership exceeds 150,000 First Nations citizens (December 2006 Indian Register).
The government’s policy of allowing bands to opt out of the election provisions of the Indian Act and their own statement that it was preferable if the system to be used had its roots in, or evolved from the custom, which the band used prior to the imposition of the order under s. 74 of the Indian Act, is a sign of the undesirability of enforcing non-aboriginal norms on Aboriginal people.
Band Custom Election Codes that were passed prior to the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have not been reviewed by the Government of Canada or any aboriginal organization to determine whether or not they are compatible with Canadian legislation, fundamental human rights standards and recent court decisions emanating from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples’ (CAP) recent review of the Custom Election Codes, public information sessions and focus groups provided us with a “snapshot” of some of the existing codified customary law in Canada.
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