Anawak appeal nixes Akulliq election race

Voters in Kugaaruk and Repulse Bay will have to wait for a separate byelection to choose their MLA, as the territorial race there has been cancelled due to a court challenge by former member of Parliament Jack Anawak.

Former MP takes election disqualification to appeals court

Voters in Repulse Bay and Kugaaruk will have to wait for a separate byelection to choose their MLA, as the territorial race there has been cancelled due to a court challenge by former member of Parliament Jack Anawak.

The Nunavut Court of Justice will hear a Charter challenge next week by Anawak, who is protesting a decision by Elections Nunavut to bar him from running as a candidate in the Akulliq constituency.

"Because the court has held that a valid appeal was made by Mr. Anawak … the chief electoral officer has no choice but to cancel the election in the constituency of Akulliq," Patrick Orr, the lawyer representing Elections Nunavut, told CBC News on Tuesday.

Chief electoral officer Sandy Kusugak had determined that Anawak was not a Nunavut resident for the 12 months prior to the Oct. 27 election date.

Anawak still a Nunavut resident: lawyer

But Steven Cooper, Anawak's lawyer, has argued that the former Nunatsiaq MP has lived in Ottawa for school and work, but considers himself to be a Nunavut resident.

Anawak was also one of Nunavut's first MLAs and cabinet ministers when the territory was created in 1999.

In a written decision handed down Tuesday afternoon, Nunavut court Justice Earl Johnson denied Anawak's appeal of the chief electoral officer's decision.

At the same time, Johnson said he would hear Anawak's argument that the Nunavut Elections Act's 12-month residency requirement violates his rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Johnson will begin hearing that argument on Oct. 14.

"Now because we're looking at the constitutionality of the entirety of the [Nunavut Elections] Act, the heart of it — as in who can vote, who can run — it has the potential to either completely stop the election or the potential to make any results null and void," Cooper told CBC News late Tuesday.

Judge cites rules

In rejecting Anawak's appeal of the Elections Nunavut decision, Johnson stated that Anawak failed to provide proof that he has resided in Nunavut for the past 12 consecutive months.

In fact, Anawak was considered an Ontario resident for tax purposes as of Dec. 31, 2007, and was receiving mail at an Ottawa address as recently as August, according to the decision.

The Elections Act has detailed and specific rules on deciding a candidate's residency, Johnson stated in his decision, adding that owning real estate or operating a business in Nunavut is not enough.

"Residency requires physical presence and the activities that occur in a household. At the very least, the appellant should have been able to provide a civic address or house number where he and his family now live," Johnson's decision read in part.

"The only evidence of residence is the hearsay provided by his stepchildren. That evidence indicates that he returned to Nunavut in February 2008."

In Akulliq, incumbent MLA Steve Mapsalak had been running against John Ningark and Marius Tungilik. There is no word on when a byelection would be scheduled.

"This is well, I guess, part of the democratic process," Tungilik said. "We will work through this somehow."

Ningark agreed: "Every person in a country, as well as in Nunavut … has a right to challenge if they feel that they're being unfairly treated," he said.

Mapsalak said he would prefer not to comment on the matter.