First Nation Leaders are Feeling the Pressure to Hold Elections During COVID-19 - There are Options
According to CBC Indigenous Services Canada said there will be no federal funding consequences. Whether a governance gap will exist is still unclear. However, there are options for leaders.
In speaking with First Nations community leaders, and recent buzz in the media, concerns about the health and safety of community members voting at the polls were growing. According to an article released by CBC, band councils felt that postponing elections would result in a governance gap, and possible loss of federal funding to fight COVID-19 as a result.
Recently, the federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced this will no longer be the case according to CBC:
Miller's statement allows First Nations to make their own decision without federal funding consequences, whether they follow the Indian Act or First Nations Elections Act.
Although it seems federal funding will continue during the pandemic, whether a governance gap within a nation would exist if an election were postponed is still unclear. There are options to address this uncertainty.
Prior to this statement, in an email sent by Indigenous Services Canada to one of our clients, the office stated: “When terms of office are likely to expire before a new council has been elected, the council must designate a person to whom the necessary authorities have been delegated, to ensure the continuity of the delivery of essential services and programs at the expiry of your term.” The email went on to say due to the unprecedented circumstances, community leaders “may designate the current council as the appropriate persons.”
This could mean if a council’s term is due to expire, and if it’s in accordance with a nation's governance code, as an emergency response measure, council can appoint themselves to ensure the continuous of essential services. This empowers current council to demonstrate their commitment and leadership to their communities during a crisis.
OneFeather will honor councils who choose to postpone elections. For those who are moving forward with voting events we have adopted advanced health and safety measures at the polls, and offer digital solutions for elections to reduce, and even eliminate, risk of direct person-to-person contact.
OneFeather encourages all Indigenous communities to plan ahead and stay sovereign.
OneFeather offers Nations support to navigate the crisis, including crisis management planning, preparing for post-pandemic, links to resources, digital solutions, and other updates. 170+ nations are using OneFeather's technology for; electronic membership management, electronic voting, online community engagement, virtual nomination meetings, and other solutions that help keep communities safe and sovereign.