First Nations Elections Act

On April 2, 2015, the First Nations Elections Act and the First Nations Elections Regulations came into force.

This legislation and accompanying regulations are part of the Government's commitment to provide frameworks that support stronger, more stable and effective First Nations governments. In particular, this legislation provides the political stability necessary for First Nations governments to make solid business investments, carry out long term planning and build relationships, all of which will lead to increased economic development and job creation for First Nations communities.

The First Nations Elections Act and accompanying regulations provide a robust election system that individual First Nations can choose to opt into. Among the many improvements over the Indian Act election system, the First Nations Elections Act offers:

  • Four year terms of office
  • Provisions that allow groups of First Nations to hold their elections on a common day and line up their terms of office
  • Clear criteria on the eligibility to be a candidate for the position of chief
  • The possibility for individual First Nations to institute a candidacy fee of no more than $250, which would be refunded if the candidate received at least 5% of the total votes cast
  • Similar to other election laws, penalties for defined offences such as obstructing the electoral process and engaging in corrupt or fraudulent activities in relation to an election
  • No role for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in receiving, investigating and deciding on election appeals

Similarly, the First Nations Elections Regulations were designed to offer improvement over the Indian Act election regulations, some of which are:

  • requirement that nominees accept their nomination in writing to become candidates
  • distribution of mail-in ballots only to those electors who make a written request and provide identification
  • provisions for the holding of advance polls if desired
  • provision for an automatic recount when the vote count is close

First Nations Can Have the Conversation

With the coming into force of the First Nations Elections Act and the First Nations Elections Regulations, First Nations can now begin the conversation about whether this new election system suits their needs and if it is determined that it does, whether to opt in.

The First Nations Elections Act does not change the Indian Act election system and First Nations can continue to hold their elections under the Indian Act if they wish. Similarly, First Nations that hold their elections under their own community or custom election code can continue to do so. However, all First Nations may wish to consider the benefits of opting in to the First Nations Elections Act.

Opting In

After having held community discussions and consultations, a First Nation council must signal its decision to opt into the First Nations Elections Act by adopting a band council resolution asking the Minister to add the First Nation to the schedule to the Act, providing a date for the election, and sending it their regional office of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Upon receipt of a band council resolution, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development will undertake the process of issuing the ministerial order, which may take several weeks.

To view a sample of the band council resolution.

Learn More

Learn more about the First Nations Elections Act by consulting the:

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Should you have any questions on the First Nations Elections Act, please contact us for more information.