Edmonton

Controversial Alexander First Nation chief re-elected by 4 votes

Chief Kurt Burnstick has hung on to power at Alexander First Nation by four votes, despite charges of sexual assault and millions of dollars in questionable payments under his watch.

Kurt Burnstick hangs on to power despite sex assault charge, unexplained payments

Alexander First Nation Chief Kurt Burnstick was held on to power by 4 votes in Monday's election. (Twitter )

Chief Kurt Burnstick has hung on to power at the Alexander First Nation reserve by four votes despite charges of sexual assault and millions of dollars in questionable payments under his watch.

Kurt Burnstick won 171 of 470 ballots cast in Monday's election. Opponent Armand Arcand received 167 votes and Stanley Arcand Junior, 128.

Burnstick did not respond to CBC's request for comment.

Electoral officer Marvin Yellowhorn confirmed Burnstick's win. CBC confirmed the numbers through band members.

On Friday there was a last-ditch effort to get a court injunction to delay the vote.
Off-reserve member Brandy Poorman described the re-election of Chief Kurt Burnstick as "an embarrassment."

A group argued rules forbidding off-reserve members from casting a ballot was discriminatory. About half of Alexander's 2,223 members live off of the reserve just northwest of Edmonton. 

But on Saturday a Federal Court of Canada judge ruled that the election could take place, under the current rules.

"I'm in complete shock," said Brandy Poorman, an off-reserve member who was part of the push for a change to the rules. "I don't feel that he (Burnstick) should even be on the ballot.

"He is before the court on allegations of sexual assault. He represents our community and it's an embarrassment. I think he needs to deal with his issues in order to lead our community."

In January, Burnstick was found not-guilty of sex assault. He's due back in court this spring on more sex assault charges.

In July Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada flagged that more than $5.3 million in band payments lacked sufficient documentation between 2010 and 2016, including two years under Burnstick's watch.

Other than the chief, all of the councilors elected in Monday's election are new. They are Cheryl Savoie, Anita Arcand, Chris Arcand, Sheldon Arcand, Marcel Paul and Joe Kootenay.

In March 2016, when Burnstick's first charge came to light, Savoie, a former director of economic development,  described it as a "serious situation." At the time she said the revelation was a chance to "address some real issues for women in our community and hopefully give them a stronger voice back." 
Dozens of members of Alexander First Nation called for the resignation of Chief Kurt Burnstick at a rally in September 2016.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca     @andreahuncar

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Huncar

Reporter

Andrea Huncar reports on human rights and justice. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

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