TFN election appeal about process, not result
Tsawwassen First Nation member Christina Shellard was on her way to the voting booth Sept. 6 to cast her ballot when she heard from a business client that the election was already over.
"I was very upset because I heard it through the grapevine," says Shellard, recalling the moment. "I was on my way out there to vote and I was told it had already happened."
Shellard, 34, was one of an estimated dozen members of TFN who were confused due to an election notice that correctly identified the date of the election (Sept. 5) but published the wrong day. Thinking the election was on a Thursday, as was written on the notice, Shellard turned up to find out the election was over.
That election saw 23-year-old TFN executive council member Bryce Williams unseat her aunt, 42-year-old Chief Kim Baird, by a 78-69 count.
Shellard phoned her aunt, furious at what had happened.
"It's our constitutional right as band members to all get a chance to vote and there were a lot of members, myself included, that didn't get a chance to vote.
"It wasn't just about me not voting. It was about the process in which there was a mistake that was made that inevitably wound up with lots of people not getting to vote."
Although she lives in Richmond, Shellard has voted in every TFN election since she became age eligible.
It was Shellard and her uncle, Mike Baird, who filed appeals within the 30 day limit. She said she filed her appeal before she knew that Baird, brother of Kim Baird, had also filed.
Mike Baird voted and ran for office in the election, but did not secure enough votes to win.
Shellard said friendship and family probably kept many people from complaining.
"There's definitely repercussions as far as community goes. There's a lot of people in the community that are really angry with me. These are people that have been friends with me since we were children."
Shellard said it wasn't necessarily about voting for Baird or Williams, but the frustration of not being able to vote on something important.
"A lot of people were saying it was based on the fact that we were family but my father (Ken Baird) was also elected as a member of the legislature so I would like to see him stay but by the same token the process needs to be a fair one."
Shellard said her experience before the judicial council was tense and that even getting the appeal filed was challenging.
"It was very time-consuming, extensive, and convoluted," she said, adding the process could be improved in the future to make it easier.
TFN's judicial council, which acts with the authority of a Supreme Court within the First Nations community, overturned the results of the election on Dec. 11.
The executive council must now decide to call a new election date no later than Jan. 11, 2013.