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Liard First Nation elects new chief and council

Liard First Nation has elected a new chief and council. A recount confirmed Stephen Charlie as chief of the First Nation in Watson Lake, Yukon.

Former chief and incumbent George Morgan trailed with 4 votes after the recount

Liard First Nation in Yukon has elected a new chief and council. (CBC)

Liard First Nation has elected Stephen Charlie as its new chief after a recount, according to the First Nation's elections officer.

The election happened as planned in June, despite the First Nation announcing in May that it would be postponed for up to six months due to COVID-19. 

Because of the small margin of votes between Charlie and former chief and incumbent George Morgan, the First Nation did a recount on Monday, according to its Facebook page. The First Nation stated that it does a recount if there are 10 or less votes separating the elected candidate and the candidate with the next highest number of votes.

According to unofficial numbers provided by the First Nation, Charlie and Morgan had four votes separating them after the recount. After the initial election, there was a six vote difference.

The First Nation's chief returning officer Colleen Craft said official results will be released soon. 

"The recount had very minute changes. However all elected officials remain the same," said Craft in an email to CBC.

According to the unofficial numbers provided by Craft, Harlan Schilling has been elected as deputy chief.

Yukon councillors elected are Edward Brodhagen, Amanda Brown, Derek Loots and Timothy Stewart. The B.C. councillors are Malcolm Groat and Catherine Porter, according to the First Nation's unofficial final results document.

The Watson Lake, Yukon-based First Nation has about 1,400 members, according to its website. The term of the chief and council was set to expire on June 5.

'Stronger when we're unified'

Charlie says his job will be to unite the community following a hotly contested election that saw nine people on the ballot vying to lead the First Nation. The unofficial results show Charlie received 80 votes out of 453, with four other candidates within a 30-vote margin. 

"We're stronger when we're unified," he said in an interview with CBC's Yukon Morning on Tuesday. 

Along with unity, Charlie stressed the need to work with other First Nations. 

"[It's about] having sound and fair leadership that respects others and to ensure that decisions are made for the people, not for the individuals, not for non-profit societies that have been established and sometimes cause friction within the nation," he said. 

Elders and young people will be top of mind under his leadership, along with ensuring the First Nation has access to social services, Charlie said. 

"The nation needs to heal. We all have to heal. If we don't do the healing, proper healing, real healing, not just lip service to those that are suffering, then we're not going to move forward," he said. 

As the territorial border reopens to B.C., just a few kilometres southeast of the First Nation along the Alaska Highway, Charlie says he will also have to manage COVID-19 health concerns as an influx of people move through the community.

"The Yukon government has to look at the economy, but I believe the priority here is health. It's a very tough decision to make," he said. "My gravest concern is the elders and those individuals that have pre-existing health conditions." 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the top two candidates for chief had four votes of separation before the recount. In fact, they had four votes of separation after the recount.
    Jul 07, 2020 9:42 AM CT

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