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Deninu Ku'e election appeal rejected

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 28, 2011

DENINU KU'E/FORT RESOLUTION - An appeal of the Feb. 11 election at Fort Resolution's Deninu Ku'e First Nation (DKFN) has been rejected.

"They shot every point I had down. None of them stood up. It's kind of crazy because they're all facts," said Tom Unka, who finished second to incumbent Louis Balsillie in the race for chief and launched the appeal.

Unka said he now intends to take the matter to court.

"We're going to start proceedings right away," he said.

His appeal of this month's election for chief and five councillors was filed on Feb. 15 and was reviewed by a three-person appeals committee on Feb. 21. A written decision was given to Unka the next day.

The committee decided "the evidence presented did not fully and properly establish the necessary grounds for an appeal."

On what it called Unka's "major complaint" that the hours the polling station was to be opened were changed the day before the election, the committee noted the hours were announced 15 days in advance.

It also determined Balsillie, who was elected chief by a 98-86 count over Unka, met eligibility requirements to be a candidate.

In addition, the committee ruled Balsillie had removed himself from the band council meeting in which his brother-in-law Raymond King was appointed electoral officer, meaning there was no conflict of interest. The committee also found Unka had 25 days before the election to express concerns about possible conflict of interest, but did not do so.

As for Unka's objections to alleged harassment on Facebook during the campaign, the committee wrote such events are "distasteful," but there is no proof Balsillie promoted or aided it.

The committee also rejected all of Unka's other concerns, including that ineligible voters may have cast ballots and his suspicion of ballot tampering.

The appeals committee was made up of community residents who are not members of DKFN: Freda Elief, Brad Wilson and Hank Mulder.

Unka was disappointed in the committee's decision.

"The whole thing is just a big farce," he said.

Among other things, he said he did not get to address the appeals committee.

"I wasn't even allowed to go in there to defend my case," he said.

King said everything Unka wanted to talk about was in his written appeal.

"So we dealt with the appeal letter," King said, adding that otherwise people would be arguing all night over the allegations. "It was just a closed meeting with the committee."

King chaired the meeting, but did not vote on the decision.

While pleased the appeal was denied, Balsillie, who had been acting chief for over three years before winning the Feb. 11 vote, is not happy the matter may end up in court.

"We have to move on. We can't keep on fighting among ourselves," he said.

Balsillie said Unka should realize that taking the First Nation to court would affect all band members, not just chief and council.

"We don't have the money to keep on doing this," he said.

The previous election in late 2009 ended up in court where it was overturned because the vote had not been called by council.

When asked what his advice would be to Unka, Balsillie said it would be pointless to offer any.

"He's an adult," he said. "Maybe what he should do is stop acting like a child and carry on with his life and let us carry on with our business."

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