The Skidegate Band Council election has been postponed until Sept. 15, 2020 due to COVID-19. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Skidegate Band Council election postponed until fall 2020

Election postponed due to COVID-19, extending mandate of current council by at least six months

The Skidegate Band Council election has been postponed until fall 2020 due to COVID-19.

The election was originally scheduled for March 27 and initially postponed until April 3 due to the pandemic. Then, after seeking advice from Indigenous Services Canada, the council ultimately decided to reschedule the election to Sept. 15, extending their mandate by a period of six months.

In an election update posted to Facebook on April 17, the current council said it was “not a decision taken lightly.”

“We could see no viable or morally acceptable alternative,” the update said. “Had we chosen to proceed with the election as scheduled, we would have unnecessarily subjected our membership to potential COVID-19 spread.

“The risk and danger this posed to our community was far too great.”

As a result of the postponement, the mandate of the incoming council will be reduced to one and a half years.

“We were not alone in this dilemma,” the update continued. “Many First Nations across Canada faced a similar conundrum.”

ALSO READ: Skidegate Band Council official election results

In response, the federal government developed First Nations Election Cancellation and Postponement Regulations. The temporary legislative amendments provide authority to chiefs and councils to make the decision to hold, postpone or cancel upcoming elections.

In a statement issued on April 16, Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller said his ministry had recommended that First Nations with upcoming elections not proceed with them at this time due to the current public health risks associated with large gatherings.

“During this pandemic, the health and well-being of Indigenous communities is our primary focus,” Miller said. “We recognize the public health risks of holding an election during a pandemic and are working to ensure there are no gaps in governance.”

ALSO READ: ‘Focus on prevention’: Haida Nation webinar emphasizes avoidance of a COVID-19 outbreak

Chief councillor Billy Yovanovich, who will be returning as chief councillor on the next council because no one else is running for his position, told the Observer he did not foresee any governance gaps as a result of the decision to postpone.

“Everybody is accepting of it,” Yovanovich said of the current council.

If there are still public health risks associated with large gatherings in September, he added, the current council could postpone the election again for another six months.

“Then the election would just be for the remainder of the term.”

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