CORNER BROOK — One of the candidates running in the first Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations Band Council election says the process is flawed.
Ron Jesseau of Corner Brook is seeking to represent the band’s members in the Corner Brook ward when the Qalipu band votes Oct. 23.
Jesseau’s main beef with the election is that there is going to be only one polling station established on election day in each ward. That means that any member who wants to vote on election day will have to make it to the polling station at St. John the Evangelist Church Hall.
The Corner Brook ward takes in much more than Corner Brook proper. It also includes the north shore of the Bay of Islands, Pasadena, South Brook, Massey Drive, Pinchgut Lake, George’s Lake and Spruce Brook.
Jesseau said any members living on the Northern Peninsula would also have to go to Corner Brook on election day.
Jesseau figures there may be around 3,500 eligible voters spread throughout his ward.
“To give equal opportunity to all these people, there should be a ballot box in every community,” said Jesseau. “It seems to me these people are being denied the basic right to vote. They are all shareholders in the Qalipu band and it seems unfair to me.”
Qalipu members do have the option of voting in an advance poll on Oct. 17, but they would still have to get to the same church hall in Corner Brook on that day.
The other option is to participate in the vote by mail-in ballot. Jesseau has concerns about the short time available to vote by mail.
“The nominations close on Oct. 1 and the ballots don’t go to the printer until Oct. 2,” he said. “The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 9, but I’m worried the office doesnt have the human resources to process all of the ballots, depending on how many that come in.”
Jesseau, a longtime advocate for aboriginal issues and injured workers, said the same problem exists in all nine of the wards established by the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations Band.
For instance, any members living in Sop’s Arm are considered members of the Benoit’s Cove ward and must travel 165 kilometres to the that south shore of the Bay of Islands community to vote on election day. Anyone living in Burgeo must travel 183 kilometres to Flat Bay to vote.
“I’m running and it is a grievance I’ve got, but everybody who is running should have the same grievance,” he said.