An appeal has been successful to have 14 of 19 previously-rejected mail-in ballots counted in a K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) ratification vote on dispersing a financial settlement for a promise in Treaty 8.

On Sept. 14, Gwen Robak, the ratification officer for KFN, posted a notice announcing the 14 votes were to be counted.

That count was to happen on Sept. 18, after the deadline for The Hub.

A Sept. 5 ratification vote had been held on what to do with a $28.3-million settlement for KFN under the so-called plows and cows section of Treaty 8.

“Nineteen of the mail-in ballots received before the close of polls were not opened or counted by the ratification officer because the voter identification envelope was not completely or properly filled out,” stated a Sept. 6 news release from KFN. “In some cases, the voter’s treaty number was not included or contained errors. In other cases, the voter identification envelope was not signed by a witness.”

The appeals officer was asked to decide whether those mail-in ballots for which the identity of the sender could be determined from the information available on the voter identification envelope should be opened and counted.

The KFN news release said the sole interest of the chief and council was to ensure all eligible votes are counted to reflect the democratic will of KFN membership.

Catherine Heron, the band manager for KFN, said the appeal officer was a Yellowknife-based lawyer.

“The only thing I can tell you is my understanding is the 14 that were still valid was because the other five were members that voted by a ballot, as well,” said Heron.

She declined to identify who launched the appeal.

The 14 votes that were to be counted on Sept. 18 had the potential to change the results of the ratification vote.

Although the initial results of the ratification vote were never officially released by KFN, a reliable source reported the vote as 135 against ratification and 132 in favour.

Under the proposed arrangement, a $15,000 payment would be made to each band member, and an $18-million trust fund would be established.

Last year, KFN members voted overwhelmingly to accept the $28.3-million settlement with the federal government.

In Treaty 8, Canada promised to provide the Hay River Indian Band – now KFN – with agricultural benefits, including farming tools, equipment and animals, once a reserve was established. The Hay River Reserve was established in 1974, but agricultural benefits were not provided.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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