Tłıchǫ grand chief election postponed amid surge of COVID-19 cases

The election's registrar has determined it is not safe to conduct regular voting activities or for candidates to do in-person campaigning because of a surge of COVID-19 cases in the region, reads a statement posted by the Tłı̨chǫ Government on Facebook. 

Mail-in ballots already received will be stored and counted in rescheduled election

Jackson Lafferty, left, Eddie Erasmus, centre, and George Mackenzie, right, are candidates in the Tłı̨chǫ grand chief election which has been rescheduled to Nov. 18, 2021. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada, CBC, John Van Dusen/CBC)

An election that will determine a new Tłı̨chǫ grand chief has been postponed until Nov. 18 because of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the N.W.T. region, according to the election's registrar.

The election had initially been scheduled for Sept. 30.

After consulting the N.W.T.'s Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (OCPHO), the registrar has determined it is not safe to conduct regular voting activities or for candidates to do in-person campaigning, reads a statement posted by the Tłı̨chǫ government on Facebook.

All exchanges between people, including paper exchanges, need to be avoided, it said. 

"Safety of Tłı̨chǫ citizens and staff is of the utmost importance and it is not currently safe to proceed with election activities as planned," the statement reads. "It is not possible for the registrar to conduct a vote in a way that will provide Tłı̨chǫ voters the fair and equal opportunities they need to cast their ballot."

As of Friday evening, there were 16 active cases of COVID-19 in the Tłı̨chǫ region according to the OCPHO — all of them in the community of Behchokǫ̀. 

Behchokǫ̀ has been under a 14-day containment order since 8 a.m. Thursday, which required all non-essential businesses to close and for schools to transition to online learning to curb the spread of COVID-19.

A notice of postponement, signed by registrar Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott, says all mail-in ballots that have been submitted so far will be securely stored and citizens "can assure their votes will be counted" when the election takes place. 

The registrar's office has been closed until further notice, but will continue to to take requests for mail-in ballots by phone and email. 

An advance poll has been pushed to Nov. 10, voting at the registrar's office has been pushed to Nov. 1-5, and a special mobile poll has been pushed to Nov. 8.