While the upcoming federal election has been an area of focus for many Canadians, a local First Nation has been busy preparing for an election of their own.
For the first time ever at Rainy River First Nations (RRFN), eligible band members have been given the option to vote online through One Feather’s election services at https://onefeather.ca/nations/rainyriver
There are over 700 electors at RRFN and those without internet access can vote in the community’s gymnasium from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 18), at which time the future chief and council will be determined.
“I think everyone should vote because it’s going to effect them in some way, whether your off-reserve or on-reserve because chief and council are privy to programming . . . and make policy based on, on reserve and off reserve members,” Chief Robin McGinnis said.
Of the five councillors currently serving, Kathy Bombay and Willie J. McGinnis are up for re-election, while incumbent Chief Robin McGinnis is seeking re-election against Kimberly Detweiler (Bombay).
New faces on the ballot for council include Lou-Ann Bombay (Brown), Carrie Ann Brown, Tara Hunter, Verna Leonard-DeBungie, Violet Leonard-Indian, Leona McGinnis, Gary Medicine, Karen Oster-Bombay, and Jason Wilson.
“Anybody that decides to run, I’ve got a lot of respect for . . . because it is a great responsibility,” Chief McGinnis remarked.
He noted that, in indigenous communities, chief and council take on a much larger role and have more of a direct impact on their constituents compared to municipal governments.
They are responsible for the governance structure and policies of their First Nation’s social services, education, housing, child and family services, addictions counselling, and other programs.
Meanwhile, the term to be served by the new chief and council will be extended by one year following the Oct. 18 election.
RRFN has moved away from the Indigenous Services Canada Election Code, after recently passing a custom election code of their own that changes their term from two years to three.
“With a lot of community consultation we decided on a three-year term,” Chief McGinnis explained.
“Two years is too short, you can get things going and projects going, but you can’t fulfill them.”
“There’s also that danger that a brand new chief and council could come in and maybe they don’t have the same vision,” he added.
“They can just shut everything down and all the work you did for two years could be for nothing.”
Chief McGinns said he urges all eligible band members who are have not yet voted to become informed and cast a ballot.
“Exercise your right to vote,” he stressed. “Everyone should have an informed opinion and have a voice on who their leadership is.”