Ronald Andrew Morin ran for council in the previous election held on July 25 2017. He was announced as elected and shortly thereafter the Electoral Officer recanted his name. (Mr. Morin has a video of this that was provided to him by a person present during the announcements.)
Mr. Morin filed an appeal with INAC on August 10 2017, requesting a recount of the ballots. He was not the only band member to file an appeal regarding this election.
Mr. Morin received a decision from INAC regarding his appeal on December 12 2018. The elections unit had determined that he had, in fact, been elected as a council member. The elections unit recounted the last three Councillor position ballots on October 19 2017. The decision acknowledged that Mr. Morin should have been a Councillor and directed that the person with insufficient votes was to be removed from council. The decision went on to say that Mr. Morin could not be declared a Councillor by the Minister and the Band was not in a position to declare him either. The other appeals were filed by other band members were eventually dismissed.
Both Mr. Morin and the Chief of Enoch called various INAC departments searching for answers regarding this decision. They did not receive any answers as to why Mr. Morin could not be declared a Councillor now-vacated position nor why the Minister was refusing to allow the Band to declare him a Councillor. They also did not receive any answers in regards to why all the ballots were not recounted or why there was a delay in providing this information.
Mr. Morin filed an Application for Judicial Review with the Federal Court on December 14 2018 arguing that:
- the decision was unjust – the Minister was being selective in terms of what legislation/laws it chooses to follow (as the Minister did not immediately report its findings in October and allowed a person to unknowingly continue to act as a counselor with insufficient votes; this is a violation of the Indian Band Elections Regulations (14)). Further, the Minister was interpreting the legislation/laws in a manner that is restrictive and unfair when the case law is clear that any ambiguity in legislative language should not be interpreted to the prejudice of First Nations.
- procedurally unfair – the process lacked justification, transparency, and was lengthy (Enoch’s next election is June 2019, nominations are May 24 2019) and rendered a decision that is a clear indication that gaps exist in the Indian Act which have allowed for an unjust decision to occur that does not follow the principles of natural justice.
- and infringed on Enoch Cree Nation’s inherent right of self-government – the Minister is interfering with the Band’s right to internal political authority and violating section 35 of the Constitution by overreaching and disregarding its fiduciary duty to First Nations.
The Application for Judicial Review was accepted (approved for case management to expedite the matter) and the Minister filed a response defending its decision. The matter went before Madam Justice Strickland on April 11 2019. Madam Justice reserved judgment. The case law was not favorable to Mr. Morin as many decisions within these types of cases upheld that neither the Minister nor the Band could declare a person as a counselor despite the recount confirming they had been elected. Mr. Morin received a decision on May 9 2019 whereas he is to be declared his rightful position as a Councillor. Mr. Morin will only be able to serve as a counselor for a few weeks and intends to run again for council but is very happy with the outcome of his appeal.
This is an unfortunate matter that has brought to light the complex process of appeals for Indigenous persons dealing with the Indian Act, INAC and the gaps within the governing legislation.