Jeremy Shingoose, who is running for chief at Waywayseecappo First Nation, requested the election period be extended.
The election is scheduled for today.
In a letter dated Feb. 19 to the electoral officer, Shingoose cited a main area of concern is the mail delay due to the pandemic, which primarily concerns off-reserve members.
"Members have either not received their ballots through the mail yet and there are concerns about the ballots being mailed back in time to make the deadline of February 23rd, 2021. Voting in advance polls in Winnipeg or Brandon is not an option for many members as we are spread out across Canada and the United States," stated Shingoose.
"Also, even those members in Winnipeg and Brandon have voiced concerns about getting to the locations for the advanced polls. Traveling to Waywayseecappo for the election during the pandemic is not an option for anyone because of the restrictions imposed by Manitoba provincial government."
But Murray Clearsky, the current chief at the First Nation, told The Brandon Sun everyone knows the election is held Feb. 23, as it has been every election period in the past — whether on the new four-year cycle or on the previous two-year cycle.
As for possible Canada Post issues, he said the First Nation just has to work around that.
But Shingoose stated there is a significant number of members who still have not received their ballots.
"Due to COVID, Canada Post has delayed ballots from being received and sent back in a timely manner before the deadline. Other couriers are having issues delivering to a P.O. Box," stated Shingoose.
There’s also the fact, he stated, that "the ballots of members that fail to reach the electoral officer in time effectively shut out those members from the electoral process and is a denial to those members of their right to choose their leadership."
Shingoose and others running in the election have expressed they wish to unite all members, on and off reserve.
Electoral officer Richard Gaywish previously told the Sun he cannot speak with the media.
Shingoose suggested extend the voting date by 30 days, and that an online voting system be instituted.
He also stated Waywayseecappo members are asking that a livestream video feed show that the ballots are counted on the day of the election for all members to observe.
To the Sun, he said members are just trying to do their due diligence.
The Government of Canada has amended the Indian Act, the First Nations Election Act and Elections According to Custom to reflect the pandemic, which allows for extending terms. Details can be found at bit.ly/2ZM7pYV
Shingoose had not heard from the electoral officer by press deadline about whether the extension would be granted.
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.