Tsawwassen First Nation election results overturned following judicial council ruling
A judicial council has overturned the results of the Tsawwassen First Nation Sept. 5 election that saw 23-year-old Bryce Williams unseat long-time chief Kim Baird by a 78-69 vote.
The election results were appealed in October by Mike Baird, brother of Kim Baird, and Christina Shellard, her niece, due to the incorrect day of the week being included on some election notices.
“The Judicial Council has been very thorough in its analysis of this appeal and did a good job,” said Mike Baird in a press release. "I am pleased with the outcome and glad I persevered. It was a new process and not easy but the results ensure our members have access to a fair voting process."
The judicial council stated in its finding, issued Tuesday, that a notice for a new election must be called by the TFN Executive Council no later than Jan. 11.
TFN’s Elections Act states that the Executive Council must give at least 90 days of notice for a general election. In the interim, the judicial council states that the current government will continue until the election.
Kim Baird confirmed in a telephone interview that she will seek reelection, but said she wouldn't discuss her election plans until the new date is officially announced.
"I do plan on running again. I just want to say, though, that it's not been the easiest of decisions. It's been a challenging time for me and the community as well, so I'm happy the decision's made so there's a way forward such as it is, but I'll be even more relieved when this next process is complete."
Baird said she received encouragement to run for election, should the council call for a do-over.
"Needless to say there is some in the community that were hoping for this outcome and are hoping that I will run again. And I suppose there are some that are the exact opposite."
Chief Williams said the news was disappointing but that he would continue "business as usual."
"It's just the process that we have to follow and obviously I'm going to be running again and I'm pretty confident that I'll be getting reelected," he said.
"There's been people wondering how I am and how I'm handling it, but I can't waste too much negative energy on this right now. I have other things I have to focus on, just the day-to-day operations and making sure we move forward with out government and our developments and our plans."
Williams said he's still "settling in" to the new job but people will see why he was elected to office and promised to prove why he belongs as chief of the Tsawwassen.
Mike Baird ran unsuccessfully in the Sept. 5 election for TFN legislative assembly and launched the appeal because he was concerned about the people who did not get to vote, according to Kim Baird.
"Others had considered appealing but found the process too challenging," she added.
The Judicial Council members sitting on the election appeal hearing were Paul Fraser QC (Queen's Council), professor Bruce MacDougall, and Leif Nordahl.
TFN has a constitution and election act which govern democratic elections, as well as appeals. The judicial council holds the same legal authority as the B.C. Supreme Court.
"The whole design of the council and constitution was designed to be arms-length to adjudicate decisions of government so it was important that we acquired really good people to sit on that [council]," said Kim Baird.
"It's challenging in that it's the very first decision it's had to make, the very first time the process has had to be used. If you look at the decision it's very thorough, it's very considered, so it demonstrates to me the processes are working the way it's supposed to."
According to figures released by TFN officials in September, 148 members voted out of an eligible 260, for a turnout of 57 per cent. TFN has a population of 439.