PBCN voters to head back to polls next week in Pelican Narrows, Sturgeon Landing

A miscommunication between Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) election officials has led to votes being invalidated in Pelican Narrows and a second set of election dates being set for the community.

PBCN members in Pelican Narrows and Sturgeon Landing will vote for chief, councillor and (in Sturgeon Landing only) elders council seats later this month. Both communities will hold advance polls April 26 and a formal election day April 27.

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Pelican Narrows voters will cast their ballots at Wapawikoscikan School, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. April 26 and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. April 27. In Sturgeon Landing, voting will take place at the Namew Lake School, also from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. April 26 and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. April 27.

All 26 candidates running for Pelican Narrows’ five seats on PBCN council, as well as candidates in Sturgeon Landing (three candidates running for one council seat and two candidates running for one elder’s council seat) will be back on the ballot, along with the six candidates running for PBCN chief. Two candidates for elder’s council - Robert McCallum and Derek Custer - have won by acclamation for Pelican Narrows, being the only two candidates who stood for the election.

PBCN communities initially held election day April 13, a COVID-19 outbreak was reported in Sturgeon Landing, leading election organizers to postpone the election there and not count votes until Sturgeon Landing residents had a chance to go to the polls. While voters in other PBCN communities were able to cast their ballots, they would not be counted until votes came in from Sturgeon Landing.

“Also note that all ballots case in the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation general election (chief, councillor and elders council) will not be counted until Sturgeon Landing reserve has completed their election activities,” reads an April 13 statement from PBCN head electoral officer Burke Ratte. In Ratte’s statement, votes were supposed to be stored at local RCMP detachments for safekeeping.

A day after the election, another statement issued by Ratte said an election official in Pelican Narrows had already began counting ballots obtained in the vote a day earlier, going against the directions given by the head electoral officer. Ratte also said in the statement that whether votes were cast on election day or in advance polls was not tracked or whether ballots were properly counted or secured.

“As a result, all of the ballots cast (chief, councillor, and elders council) in Pelican Narrows at the advance poll and election day poll are not valid and new dates will be scheduled for the election activities in Pelican Narrows,” said Ratte’s April 14 statement.

“All communities except Pelican Narrows respected my decision to hold off on the ballot count and all ballot boxes in the communities except Pelican Narrows have been secured at the local RCMP detachments.”

A new election date was announced in another online statement issued April 19, setting a new election date for Pelican Narrows and for Sturgeon Landing. In the April 19 statement, Ratte said a new election team would be appointed for Pelican Narrows. Votes in all other PBCN communities in the election remain valid and will be counted after both Pelican Narrows and Sturgeon Landing residents get a chance to cast ballots.

Further information can be found on the PBCN election Facebook page.

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