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JULY 30, 2009

Ayotte elected chief

Roxane Ayotte was elected chief today, defeating old guard chief Gary Potts in a court-ordered election that likely set a turnout record.

After ignoring two elections and an impeachment, then losing in a court battle he launched, incumbent Potts was defeated 100 to 53.

John McKenzie defeated incumbent Second Chief Peter McKenzie 95 to 60.

FOLLOWUP STORY: Potts out, Ayotte in


Photo: Indian pipes on Lake Temagami

JULY 30, 2009

Indian pipes speak

Can you hear the overture of the Indian pipes (shown here this morning on Sharp Rock Inlet of Lake Temagami)?

"It's wet," they sing.

Harold Keevil of Sharp Rock thinks summer has arrived. How does he know? "I see a yellow orb in the sky and it is reasonably warm out."

Pam Sinclair of the Hub is so adjusted to negative conditions that she is shocked by the turn. "This is getting weird."





JULY 29, 2009

Native art gallery opens on Bear Island

Two Bear Island artists open a gallery, showcasing their aboriginal creations.

The Pier Market Gallery, next the grill in the boathouse on Bear Island, contains a sampling of their work from numerous traditional materials, including bear hide and porcupine quills.

Marty Pridham and Angela Katt produce more than art. They also make jewelry and clothing, and do custom orders.

JULY 21, 2009

TFN election day July 30

After a year of political turmoil, court hearings and legal bills, the members of the Temagami First Nation will decide at the ballot box who will be chief: Potts or Ayotte.

The court-ordered vote for chief and second chief will be held July 30. Gary Potts and Roxane Ayotte (uncle and niece) are running for chief.

Peter McKenzie and John McKenzie (cousins) are standing for second chief. Peter is aligned with Potts and John is aligned with Ayotte.

Potts election on June 12, 2008 in a tie vote was tainted by election irregularities. It became ground zero for the conflict that will end on election day.

A candidates night will be held this evening at the Bear Island Recreation Centre.

RELATED STORY: Court sets rules for new election of chiefs 


Photo: Ishpatina aerial photo showing fire tower, July, 2009

JULY 4, 2009

Court sets rules for new election of chiefs

The court set rules for a new election of Temagami First Nation's chiefs after ruling in May that the June 2008 election of Gary Potts was "flawed from the beginning."

The new election will be held only for first and second chiefs. The interim ruling had ordered an election of the whole Chief and Council. It will likely be held before the middle of August.

The reserve has been in political turmoil since the 2008 vote ended in a tie for chief. Potts won on the electoral officer's flip of a coin.

Ten formal appeals followed. They were scrutinized by the electoral officer, Virginia Paul. She rejected all. 

The court found she exceeded her authority by not passing the appeals to the appeal body, the Council of Elders.

Roxane Ayotte and a new council had been elected to rectify the flawed election, but the Potts council took them to court. Ayotte asked the court for a new election. Potts sought the court's recognition.

In its May ruling, the court asked both groups to submit proposals for a new election. The Potts submission asked that only the chiefs be re-elected and that the councillors stay in place. It also asked for some latitude in authority until the election.

This swerved from the court's request for guidance on the election conduct. Was Potts trying to make a submission the judge could not accept and give himself an easy window to an appeal?

He may also have been hedging by objecting to the court's interim decision to interpret the Tribal Constitution. His lawyers argued this was beyond the court's authority. Potts' lawyers stated in the submission that it was "made without prejudice to our clients' right of appeal."

Clearly Potts was positioning himself for an appeal.

It appears, however, that the judge boxed him in. Instead of rejecting the Potts submission, he accepted it.

Potts is now in a more difficult position as the appeal judges will note that he got what he wanted and are more likely to view an appeal as frivolous.

Gary Potts has a long history of fighting his battles in court. He started with the land claim that ended in the Supreme Court and continued on with a fight against a group of families that sought their own land claim in the early 1990s.

This time, instead of naming the TFN as the respondent, he named seven individuals, the Ayotte group, forcing them to pay legal fees out of their pockets. This has been viewed among tribal members as intimidation.

Unfortunately, Potts' legal battles devastated the band's finances on every occasion.

It is widely expected among First Nation members that he will appeal this decision because his chances at an election victory are slim. But the court will not be looking favourably upon it.

Justice Hughes has been sympathetic to the First Nation's plight throughout the court battle, pushing the parties to settle or mediate, and seeking their ideas for his final ruling.

The last clause in his decision orders the TFN to pay the Ayotte group's legal fees, as the TFN did for the Potts group. To the end, he never let his fairness fade.

BACKGROUND:  Court's final decision (PDF)

RELATED STORIES: Three Elections, Two Chiefs, One Quagmire

                              First Nation court date set  

                              First Nation chief and council impeached

                              Indian Affairs' contradicts policy

                              TFN council stripped of authority

                              First Nation votes to oust Chief Potts

                              Potts council beleaguered

                              Court hearing on Potts' impeachment

                              Mediation falls flat

                              Respect their dignity

                                 Last chance at mediation

                                 First nation mediation commiseration

                              Court orders new election at First Nation


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