A man running for chief of the Buctouche First Nation wants voting rules on his reserve to change.

Garry Sanipass says not all band members of legal voting age are allowed to cast ballots in the election set for the end of Feb. 28.

Sanipass, who has held the position before, is up against incumbent Chief Ann Mary Steele, who has held the position for ten years.

He says the way voting works now is unfair and undemocratic. The rules state, "If you are native and a band member and live on the reserve but work off reserve you are not allowed to vote, if you're a band member who happens to live off reserve you are not allowed to vote."

Sanipass wants to change the rules so that all members have a right to vote.


Ashley Sanipass says it unfair she is not allowed to vote in the band election. (CBC)

Garry Sanipass says when he couldn't find housing he built his own home to keep his vote. His daughter, Ashley Sanipass, doesn't live on the reserve because she says she can't find housing.

"That's just, it's appalling to me, like it's 2016, my ancestors fought so hard, so hard to be able to vote, and now I can't even vote in my own community," she said.

Samantha Sanipass, Garry Sanipass' niece, agrees. She's campaigning to become a band councillor and she says restricting the voter list sends the wrong message.

"It's our turn to stand up and fight for our rights, and if more youth want to be a part of that we should foster that, we should cherish that, instead of diminishing it," she said. 

Like hundreds of other communities, the Buctouche First Nation developed its own voting rules according to the Indian Act and they've been in place since 1981.


Samantha Sanipass is running for band councillor and wants the voting rules changed. (CBC)

Chief Steele sent CBC News a written statement saying those rules will not change before the vote later this month. But Steele said she is open to reviewing, and maybe amending them, after the election. 

For his part, Garry Sanipass says he plans to continue his fight and may seek legal advice.

"They basically said these are the rules that were put in place in 1981 and this is what we're going by," he said.