Three members of the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation are accusing their chief and band administrator of paying voters in exchange for support in an upcoming election.
In sworn affidavits, the members say they were approached either by Chief Vern Janvier or the band’s administrator, Kevin Couselan and offered $500 if they promised to re-elect Janvier in the band’s March 10 election.
The accusations became known when The Fort McMurray Today published a story on March 3rd.
Norman Herman, 53, says Couselan offered him a cheque in mid-February after being denied financial assistance for several years.
“I’m broke so I took the cheque and cashed it,” he wrote. The stub for the cheque says it was payback for travel expenses, something Herman says he never applied for. “I feel like I have been bought by Vern and Kevin.”
The affidavits signed by Dave Cardinal, 46, and Jared Morice, 24, describe similar meetings last month. They too say they never applied for travel assistance.
The three men currently do not have any steady income, wrote Fort McMurray Today reporter Vincent Dermott in his March 3rd article which then went on to detail compelling information offered-up by other community members.
Former Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw, who is representing the men, says the claims have been submitted to the RCMP and Pauline Gauthier, the chief electoral officer. He also says many other voters have been approached by Couelson and Janvier.
“The electoral officer has power to disqualify individuals engaging in electoral fraud,” said Saskiw. “If the RCMP or chief electoral officer find these allegations have merit, we would expect the chief electoral officer to follow the code and disqualify.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court and no one from the First Nation returned multiple requests for comment. But if the allegations prove true, they would not be the first questionable expense from the chief.
The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation is located approximately 125 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, near the hamlet of Janvier.
The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation is governed by a Chief and three councillors; Chief Walter Janvier, Councillor James Janvier and Councillor Shaun Janvier.
The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation is a member of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, the last and largest of the nineteenth century land agreements made between First Nations and the Government of Canada. Over 840,000 square kilometers of land was set aside in this treaty however, the context and meaning of the treaty and the treaty process remains hotly debated.
Treaty members encourage the public to engage in this ongoing debate by exploring aspects of how treaty and scrip decisions were made in 1899 and how they still affect life for the peoples of Treaty 8 117 years later.