Overview and Rationale
Bill S-6 presents an optional election system that First Nations may choose to adopt over their current system. As the bill was developed to address key weakness of the Indian Act election system, the legislation responds to concerns raised by members of those First Nations who hold their elections under that system. Bill S-6 offers several improvements over the Indian Act election system, key of which are four year terms of office, the possibility for several First Nations to hold their elections on a common day, defined offences and penalties that allow for questionable activities surrounding elections to be prosecuted, and removal of the role and decision making power of the Minister in election appeals.
Consultation and Engagement
Between January and March 2010, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), Ron Evans, and his team held information and engagement sessions in over 30 of Manitoba's 37 First Nations who hold their elections under the Indian Act election system to obtain input and feedback on reforming this election system.
At the same time, in their own region, the Atlantic Policy Congress (APC) was examining and soliciting input on election reforms through outreach initiatives on social media, through articles in the Mi'kmaq Maliseet News and through focus groups with subject matter experts. In March 2010, the AMC and the APC submitted similar recommendations to the Minister.
In addition to the above in-person sessions held by the regional organizations, the AMC and the APC posted on their websites background materials and a discussion paper that outlined their recommendations and the rationale that led to each one of them. The websites also invited interested persons to submit comments and further ideas directly to the organizations.
Both organizations also wrote to every First Nation Council which holds its elections under the Indian Act and enclosed a copy of the discussion paper described above. In the letter, First Nations Councils were encouraged to hold discussions in their communities and to provide feedback.
Between October 2010 and March 2011, both organizations led a national engagement initiative on their recommendations. Grand Chief Ron Evans distributed background and discussion materials, made presentations and heard comments at:
- A general assembly of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (October 2010)
- A general assembly of the Alberta Chiefs of Treaty 6, 7 and 8 (October 2010)
- A meeting of the Chief Negotiators of British Columbia (January 2011)
- The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council in British Columbia (January 2011)
- A general assembly of the Union of British Columbia Indians (March 2011)
The Atlantic Policy Congress carried out the same exercises at:
- A special assembly of the Chiefs of Ontario (November 2010)
- The annual general meeting of the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association (February 2011)
- The Fall Policy Forum of the Assembly of First Nations (November 2010)
Finally, in August 2011, prior to the introduction of the bill, the Minister wrote to every First Nation Council who holds its election under the Indian Act, providing them with a document that outlined the contents of the draft bill. In his letter, the Minister asked First Nations leaders to provide their comments, make this document available to band members, hold discussions within their communities and encourage their members to provide comments and concerns to the Department.