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Hopedale byelection sees low turnout

The Nunatsiavut Government Assembly building in Hopedale.
The Nunatsiavut Government Assembly building in Hopedale. - Contributed

Weather, discontent cited as reasons

HOPEDALE, N.L. —

There was a byelection held in Hopedale on April 9 for Ordinary Member of the Nunatsiavut Assembly. The position, which is representing the small community of 583 in the Inuit government, was vacated on March 5 when Rachel Saunders was removed from the job for Code of Conduct violations.

In the byelection 146 people voted, with the winner being Greg Flowers with 90 votes. In the May 1, 2018 general election 243 people voted, with 147 voting for the winner, Rachel Saunders.

There are 437 eligible voters in Hopedale, which means just over half voted in the general election and a third voted in the byelection.

Social media poll

The Labrador Voice asked people in Hopedale via social media why they didn’t vote and got a number of responses. Factors many brought up included poor weather and the fact that the polling station was in a different place, not normally where elections were held.

“It wasn’t the best for driving yesterday considering the weather, most buildings were shut down,” Cheryl Winters wrote.

Sybilla Bennett said she knows a lot of people who are upset that Saunders was  kicked out, and also cited the weather as a reason she didn’t vote.

“Maybe what should happen is to clear everything up with (Saunders’) situation because it seems people only know what happened on hearsay” she wrote. “Not hearing two sides of the story. Just my thought on this.”

Some said they specifically didn’t vote because of the removal of Saunders.

Melvin Hurley didn’t vote because “the person we voted for was kicked out for the wrong reasons and the people didn’t like it.”

Mary Flowers agreed with Hurley as to why she didn’t vote.

“I didn’t vote because I feel that Rachel was fired for no reason,” she said. “I don’t want to support anyone when we already had someone amazing in for us.”

Others brought up that even if they didn’t agree with recent events, the community should focus on what lies ahead.

Phil Abel said people should focus on the future of Nunatsiavut and not what already happened.

“I'd like to see us move forward, instead of fighting each other about things already done,” he wrote.

John Lucy said while some people didn’t vote because of past incidents people have to move forward.

“Bad things happen all around the world with governments but that should make us more aware of what needs to be done and which steps to take next so that the right way and a path made for a promising brighter future for all Inuit in Nunatsiavut,” he wrote. “Be encouraging, be strong, love one another and set an awesome example for our future and children.”

Saunders had been found guilty of three Code of Conduct breaches and was the subject of two formal complaints when she was removed.

She was ordered to apologize to the Hopedale Housing Committee, the Nunatsiavut Assembly, her constituents, and staff. She was also given a one-week suspension as an Ordinary Member. She refused to apologize and defended her actions to the Nunatsiavut Assembly when she was removed in March.

“I am an honest person, I’m firm in my beliefs, and I have very high integrity,” Saunders said. “My morals and my values are that of my ancestors. To me this process was not fair and I stand proud in saying I will fight for what I believe is right to me.”

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