The Acho Dene Koe First Nation in Fort Liard, N.W.T., has a new chief and council.
Gene Hope was elected chief of the First Nation Monday, defeating challengers Frank Kotchea, Cathy Kotchea, and Herbie Berreault. Hope received 115 votes, 12 more than Frank Kotchea, his closest challenger.
"There's no words to say my feelings," said Hope, who unsuccessfully ran for chief in 2014. "It's just overwhelming."
Over 300 ballots were cast for chief, a figure that represents over 50 per cent of the First Nation's eligible voters. It's representative of the significance of this election for many members, following a contentious campaign which included alleged incidents of uttering threats and arson against candidates.
"Out and about in the community, talking to people... they want change," said Hope. "Just to move in a direction of change. The well-being of the community, work-wise, housing, all that. That's what people really want."
Hope said he plans to have community discussions to clear the air following the election, where it appeared that two slates had formed: one supporting suspended chief and councillor Harry Deneron, who was unsuccessful in a bid to return to council, and another hoping for change.
"Only thing we can do is have meetings, talk on it," he said. "We let these people talk amongst themselves, and then we say 'let's solve it this way.'"
Three of the councillors who were part of the decision to suspend Deneron were re-elected Monday: Irene McLeod, Morris McLeod, and Joe Bertrand. They will be joined on council by three fresh faces in Dennis Nelson, Angus Capot-Blanc, and Roger Bertrand.
Fort Liard, a community of about 500 in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories near the B.C. and Yukon border, is where most Acho Dene Koe members live.
Hope says that he plans to sit with his new council soon to discuss the band's direction moving forward, but added that he hopes to receive input from all members.
"It's not going to be unilateral decision making any more," he said. "It's going to be the band's decision."
The full results from the election follow.
- Gene Hope: 115 votes (elected)
- Frank Kotchea: 103
- Cathy Kotchea: 57
- Herbie Berreault: 24
- Spoiled ballots: 3
- Joe Bertrand: 225 votes (elected)
- Dennis Nelson: 225 (elected)
- Angus Capot-Blanc: 222 (elected)
- Irene McLeod: 214 (elected)
- Morris McLeod: 205 (elected)
- Roger Bertrand: 186 (elected)
- Peter Bertrand: 105
- Steve Kotchea: 82
- Harry Deneron: 72
- Spoiled ballots: 8