Mosquito First Nation is going to the polls again in a band election in April, and already the vote is in some turmoil.
Both incumbent chief Noel Stone Jr. and band councillor Milton Oxebin have been declared ineligible for a period of two years from running as candidates for chief or council in an order from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada that came down in late February.
Both were found guilty of “corrupt practice” under s.78 (2)(b) (iii) of the Indian Act, according to information provided to the Regional Optimist by the department. Also found guilty of corrupt practice was band councillor Elbert Pahsaknunk, who has already resigned.
The order came following an appeal of the results of the First Nation election from April 14, 2011. The appeal, launched shortly after that vote, alleged vote-buying and mail-in ballot tampering in that election on the reserve involving both Stone and Oxebin.
According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, an independent third party investigation officer was subsequently appointed, in accordance with subsection 13(1) of the Indian Band Election Regulations, to investigate those allegations.
The decision impacts Mosquito band council's ability to form quorum, according to Aboriginal Affairs. They say necessary steps will be taken to ensure delivery of essential programs and services to band members is not compromised.
The First Nation's election process is currently underway and this decision will not interfere with the nomination meeting March 5 and the band election that is scheduled to be held April 17.
News of the decision preventing Stone and Oxebin from running was sent out last week to candidates from the 2011 race. One of those is Robert Armstrong, who ran unsuccessfully for band council in that vote.
Armstrong confirmed he has received notice of the decision from Aboriginal Affairs. He has also confirmed his intentions to run for chief.
Mosquito First Nation is just the latest Northwest-area First Nation to see an election overturned on the basis of corrupt practices. Other area First Nations who have seen similar troubles in recent years include Moosomin First Nation, where Chief Elliot Kahpeaysewat was ordered removed for vote-buying last year, and Red Pheasant First Nation, where former Chief Charles Meechance was removed and later convicted over a vote-buying scheme in that band election.