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Historic Vote Underway for Atikameksheng Gimaa and Council

Posted June 1, 2020

 “Our Election. Our Way.” 

ATIKAMEKSHENG ANISHNAWBEK, Ontario (June 1, 2020) — Voting in the 2020 Atikameksheng Anishnawbek election is now underway.   

This historic vote is being conducted like never before, under the First Nation’s new custom election code and via online electronic voting. This new law, Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, governs the process and conduct of the Gimaa (Chief) and Council election.  The code was ratified in January 2020. 

“We are so pleased to see our election moving ahead in our way. It is a significant step towards self-determination when we can select our community leadership using our own processes under our own jurisdiction,” said Gimaa Valerie Richer. 

In order to raise awareness of the election and get out the vote, the community is working to inform their citizens through online communications, including a new election website: http://atikamekshenganishnawbek.ca/elections/ and using its social media channels on Facebook and Twitter. 

The theme of the online campaign is “Our Election. Our Way.” – a means of raising awareness of this historic election – the first under the new custom election code. 

The path to developing the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin began years ago following approval of the Atikameksheng Chi-Naaknigewin in 2015.  The First Nation’s constitution was developed and approved to guide the community in how it would govern its own affairs and ultimately, how it would select their own leadership. 

The 2020 election process began with a nomination meeting on April 23, 2020.  Four (4) candidates are vying for the office of Gimaa, while seventeen (17) candidates have been nominated for the office of Councillor.  Five (5) are to be elected to the office of Councillor.   

For the first time in Atikameksheng history, the term for office has been increased from a two year term, the default under the Indian Act, to four years under the new election code. 

Having our own process will allows our citizens to vote from the safety of their living rooms.”

The in-person poll will be held on June 27, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Community Centre.  Any person on the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Band registry and is 18 years of age or older as of June 27, 2020 is eligible to vote. 

Voters can also cast their vote via mail-in ballot. 

There is further history in the making for Atikameksheng.  Under the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, there are provisions for conducting the vote using online electronic voting.  This is certainly timely given the public health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Having our own process will allows our citizens to vote from the safety of their living rooms, as opposed to the prescribed restrictions under the Indian Act,” said Gimaa Richer.  Elected in 2018, Gimaa Richer is not seeking re-election. 

Electronic voting for Gimaa and Council election is open from today, June 1, 2020 at 8 a.m. until June 27, 2020 at 8 p.m. Atikameksheng citizens of voting age can access the One Feather voting site at https://onefeather.ca/nations/atikameksheng-anishnawbek.  Although this is the first electronic vote for Gimaa and Council in the history of the community, the community has used electronic voting in the past, most recently in ratifying the election code in January. 

Other COVID-19 precautions will be in place, including physical distancing at the polling station, Surfaces including pencils, marking stations and even the ballot box will be disinfected after each use.   

The pandemic has already had some impact on the 2020 election.  Ministerial approval of Gimaakeng Naaknigewin was delayed for a number of weeks this spring. 

Over the next 27 days, Atikameksheng will continue to update the community with timely information and instructions on how to vote.  A special community newsletter edition is planned, as is an online forum to answer questions posed by Atikameksheng citizens. 


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“This is our moment”: Gimaa

Posted June 1, 2020

By Gimaa Val Richer

I was speaking to Chief Pamajewon not too long ago who remembered the day they kicked the Indian Agent out of their band meeting. I was fascinated by this recounting of history in his community and I saw the look of pride he had when sharing this truly historic event with me. I thought this was a bold and powerful move to assert their Nation’s sovereignty and was fascinated to hear this from someone who was there.  

I was thinking back to this story because I feel like this is our moment. This is our moment that we kicked the Indian Act out of our band elections and this makes me proud. We have been talking about doing this for years. This is truly a historic event for us and I encourage you to remember this moment and make sure our young ones remember this too. Perhaps on election day, we should take pictures of all our little ones, with the slogan “Atikameksheng doesn’t need the Indian Act” or something to that effect.  

“This is our moment that we kicked the Indian Act out of our Band elections.”

GIMAA VAL RICHER

This wasn’t an easy path for us. Afterall, there had to be some reason why we didn’t vote on this back in 2015 though we had a finished document or why we didn’t do it even earlier than that. The simple answer is that we weren’t ready. However, I felt the strong push from our community to ensure this happened. There was barely a community event held where someone didn’t bring this up and told us that we needed to finish this work. And then when it did happen, we oddly also felt some push back.  

And externally, we also faced challenges because the Minister’s inaction almost led to a delay for us. There was a moment, and maybe more than one, where we had to decide whether to carry on under the Indian Act (because of the Minister’s delay) or to go ahead and follow our own law. We decided NOT to act like an Indian Act Chief and Council, and take direction from you rather than let the Minister’s delay interfere. We kicked the Indian Act out of our elections. This exercise was a clear example to us of the bureaucracy and paternalism that still exists and the exact reason why we need to get away from the Indian Act and assert our own authority. We should never let the Minister or ISC delay us. We should proceed at our own speed and according to our own laws and ISC can continue to play catch-up. We have been delayed by them long enough and we have the authority to run our own vote, our own way. 

We don’t celebrate our successes enough and I think it is time we start. I want to congratulate all of you, and all of us for making this happen. I am so proud of you Atikameksheng and I am so proud to say that I was the last Indian Act Chief in Atikameksheng!  

I am looking forward to the next four years under our own Gimakeeng Naaknigewin and I can’t wait to see what step we take next!  

Miigwech! 


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Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

How Do I Vote?


Question: How do I vote?

Answer: If you are on the band membership list of Atikameksheng Anishnawebek, who is at least 18 years of age on the day of the election, there are three ways you can vote in this election:


1. ONLINE, ELECTRONIC VOTING

Online voting is open right now. It is easy and you can vote from the comfort and safety of home from any computer, tablet, iPad or smart phone. You do need to have your own email address.

STEP 1: Visit the OneFeather landing page https://onefeather.ca/nations/atikameksheng-anishnawbek to register with OneFeather & initiate the online voting process with your First Nation. Have your 10 Digit Status Card Number (Registry Number beginning with 224), Date of Birth and Personal Email ready.

  • Click the red Register to Vote Button – Enter your Registry Number and Date of Birth.
  • Click the red Register button.
  • Click the red Register button again.

STEP 2: Check your email. You will receive an email with a confirmation link.

An email can be used only once to access a secret pin, you cannot use your email to help someone else.

  • Click the verification link to confirm and activate your eligibility to vote electronically.

If you do not see the email within 5 minutes – check your Junk Email folder or Clutter folder.

Watch your email for a second email following immediately from OneFeather. This email will have your PIN (unique personal identification number) and a secure link to the voting event.

  • Write down your PIN (always lower case)
  • Click the link in the email to Vote.
  • Confirm that you want to vote electronically. Check the box!
  • Click the red Verify My Identity Box

Read the instruction pages – click Next when ready to proceed

Complete your identity verification – enter your PIN, Registry Number & Date of Birth.

STEP 3: Follow the voting instructions and cast your Vote for Gimaa & Councillor!

  • Confirm your Vote.

If you encounter any issues during the voting process please contact Vaughn Johnston, Electoral Officer at vaughn_johnston@hotmail.com.


2. MAIL-IN BALLOT

In the next few days (provided we have your address) you will receive a mail-in ballot package in the mail. Open your package, read and follow the instructions provided.

Your ballot must be received by mail or hand delivered to Vaughn Johnston, Electoral Officer by Saturday, June 27, 2019 by 8:00 pm (EST).

Step 1: Your Ballot will be on coloured paper and it will have the Electoral Officer’s initial on the back.

  • Gimaa (Chief) Ballot: you may cote for only one (1) candidate;
  • Councillor Ballot: you may vote for up to five (5) candidates. It will not allow you to vote for more than 5 candidates; however, you may vote for less than 5 candidates.
  • Mark the ballot by placing an X or ✓ in the box beside the Candidate(s) for whom you wish to vote.

Step 2: Place your ballot inside the Secrecy Ballot Envelope and seal it.

Step 3: Place the Secrecy Ballot Envelope into the Declaration Envelope and seal it.

Step 4: Complete and sign the outside of the Declaration Envelope in the presence of a witness who is at least 18 years of age.

Step 5: Enclose the sealed, signed and witnessed Declaration Envelope in the Return Envelope, with the prepaid postage and seal it.

Step 6: Fill out your name and address in the top left corner of the stamped Return Envelope.

Step 7: Drop off at any Post Office (allow ample time for delivery) or hand deliver on Election Day. All mail-in ballots must be received by the Electoral Officer no later than June 27, 2020 at 8:00 pm (EST).


3. AT THE POLLING STATION ON ELECTION DAY

The Official Voting Day will take place on Saturday the 27th day of June 2020 from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Community Centre, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. Please bring one piece of ID with your name and picture.


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Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

10 Reasons Why You Should Vote

Posted June 1, 2020

1. Our veterans fought for our right to survive, to exist, and to vote.

There was a time when we couldn’t vote in democratic elections. Anishnawbeg just didn’t have a say. Our Ogitchidaag, those who served, stepped up to ensure our rights were upheld. They fought for our survival and existence as Anishnaawbe people. Honouring the contribution of our veterans means to exercise the basic rights that they fought for. We thank all the veterans for their important contributions.

2. This is self-determination in action.

There was a time when the government told us we couldn’t vote, followed by a time where they came into our communities and told us exactly how to vote, and limited it so that only certain individuals could vote.

We have been fighting this battle one step at a time.

First our veterans won us the right to be treated as equals and to be able to vote.

Now we are continuing this fight with telling them we will run our own election, our own way. We are not asking for permission. This is self-determination in action.

Atikameksheng Anishnawbek we have a right to govern ourselves. We have a right to determine our own future. We have a right to establish our own laws and our own processes. We have a right to select our leaders our way. This election is the first time we have asserted these rights collectively for generations.

3. Empowering you – Atikameksheng citizens.

In 2015, you ratified the Chi-Naaknigewin, our official constitution. This January, you ratified the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Election Code. You are now empowered in a way you have never have in the past. Voting is the way you can have your say. To be empowered is to exercise power.

4. This is history.

  • The is the first election using the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Election Code.
  • This is the first election using online, electronic voting.
  • This is a historic time where Atikameksheng citizens can celebrate and say: we choose to have our election, our way.

Be a part of history in the making.

This is a historic time where Atikameksheng citizens can celebrate and say: we choose to have our election, our way.

5. Voting from home is safer than heading to the polling station.

If you are an Elder, have chronic health condition, or are just concerned for your wellness, you can vote from the safety of your own home.

There are two options for an eligible voter to cast a vote from home.

6. Precautions are being taken at the polling station.

AAFN elections officials will make sure the polling station is safe for those who want to cast a ballot on the usual way at the polling station on election day. Some important precautions are taking place.

For example: Admission inside the polling station will be limited to ensure physical distancing. Surfaces including pencils, marking stations and even the ballot box will be disinfected after each use. We’re doing our best to ensure your health and safety on election day.

7. The election count and announcement will be live streamed.

Physical distancing will be a challenge at the election count. Candidates or a representative are welcome to attend and scrutinize the count in-person. All other Atikameksheng citizens can witness the election count live streamed via our Members’ Portal. Visit the Election page or the Membership Portal for more information.

8. First time voters, welcome!

If you’ve recently turned 18, or maybe you haven’t had your first experience as a voter, this is your turn. You are voting for the first time. You are using electronic voting for the first time. You are voting under our own election code process for the first time. That’s a lot of firsts! Welcome.

9. It’s a step towards traditional governance.

The current practice of electing of a Chief and Council was not the historic way of selection our leaders. As Anishnawbek, we made use of the Clan System, our traditional way of selecting our leaders. While this sacred, familial process isn’t a part of the current Atikameksheng Election Code, there is no saying that it cannot be in the future. That is the beauty of having our own process done in our way. The election code can be one step towards traditional governance. Someday in the future, we can restore our traditional way of selecting our leaders.

10. To refuse to vote is to surrender.

It’s been said that declining to vote isn’t a protest, it’s a form of surrender. You are effectively surrendering your voice by surrendering your choice. Be empowered. Be a part of debate. Share your thoughts and ideas via social media. Run for Chief and Council. Get involved. But by all means, vote.


A final Minister’s approval?

Posted June 1, 2020

During the course of the development of Atikameksheng Anishinaabek election code, AAFN officials have had to overcome a number of challenges and barriers.  Most of those challenges were directly related to the imposition of the Crown over our Atikameksheng affairs.  

With the ratification of the community election code, Gimaakeng Naaknigewin, in January 2020, the community has spoken!  Our First Nation has been directed to implement the code voted upon by our members.  With the successful ratification, Atikameksheng has taken historic and substantial step towards self-determination.  We are now going to select our own leaders – our way! 

Yet, we still needed one more approval.  The signature of the Ministers of Crown-Indigenous Relations.  Yet again, even following the election code ratification, we encounter the imposition of the Crown. 

Since that time, knowing full well that an election was on the horizon, the Minister sat on our approval. 

Then after a few weeks, with a lot of follow-up and encouragement from our Chief and Council, still nothing. 

Then COVID-19 hit. 

With the ratification of the community election code, the community has spoken!

We certainly recognize that there are far more important priorities for Canada during a pandemic crisis.  The federal government was dealing with life and death.  Public health measures to curb the spread of coronavirus was the only business of the federal government during March and April.  Then they had to address the economic reality, now a recession.  People were losing their jobs and businesses were having to close. 

All the while, Atikameksheng waited and waited for the “approval” of our Election Code. 

That is the reality of colonialism.  By being subservient to the Crown, we are always waiting for their validation and approval.  That is the very nature of the Indian Act.  Band Councils serve under the jurisdiction of the Indian Act and the Minister.  That is not right. 

Atikameksheng has passed our supreme law: our Gi’Chi-Naaknigewin. 

Atikameksheng has passed our way of selecting our leaders: Gimaakeng Naaknigewin

Atikameksheng citizens have spoken and we are taking a rightful step towards self-determination and establishing our own processes under our own jurisdiction. 

Today, our Chief and Council and First Nations staff and officials endeavour to serve under our own Atikameksheng jurisdiction.  We must take steps to change our way of thinking and way of life. 

The Minister did finally give his approval and signed off on the Gimaakeng Naaknigewin.  It is now in-force, just in time for the upcoming election. 

Think about it this way…  perhaps this is one of the final approvals we will ever need from the Minister.  Our ancestors never needed to ask permission to govern themselves and manage their own affairs.  Why should we? 

If we are committed to self-determination, to the selection of our own leaders in our way, and empowering processes under our own jurisdiction – we choose to move forward. 

We choose to move forward, in our way. 

That’s what this election is all about. 


Act.

Interact.

Use hashtag #OurElectionOurWay

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