Booze used to buy Natuashish votes, court told
A former Innu chief in northern Labrador has made a court application to overturn band council election results that he claims were tainted by the use of alcohol to buy votes.
Prote Poker, who was defeated as chief of Natuashish in a March election, and others have filed an application with the Federal Court of Canada. The application cites a number of irregularities with the election, as well as allegations of corruption.
Poker, who had shepherded a controversial prohibition of alcohol in Natuashish during his term in office, is not commenting on the court action.
But court documents show he alleges the Mushuau Innu First Nation failed "to investigate allegations that certain of the candidates had engaged in the corrupt practice of offering alcohol and/or drugs in exchange for votes."
Poker and five other residents want the court to declare the March 5 results be declared "null and void on the grounds that the voters were subjected to improper influences to obtain, influence, attract and persuade them to vote in favour of certain candidates and that such actions are offensive to democratic principles."
Materials submitted to the court include affidavits as well as photographs downloaded from a Facebook account.
But Simeon Tshakapesh, who was elected chief in March, discounts the allegations in an affidavit filed with the court.
Tshakapesh, who also declined an interview request, said any problems with the management of the election were the fault of the old council, of which Poker was the leader.
"The history of the administration as led by Prote Poker is, in the eyes of much of the community, a sad chapter for our reserve," said Tshakapesh's affidavit.
Among other things, Tshakapesh — who denied using alcohol to buy votes — alleges Poker tried to corrupt the electoral process himself by timing it "to eliminate my challenge to him as chief of the band council."
Tshakapesh and Poker have been outspoken critics of one another for years. After the March election, Tshakapesh originally said he was cancelling the alcohol prohibition, although he later allowed a plebiscite that narrowly passed.
No date has been set for a trial in Federal Court.