Mandatory drug tests for Beardy's and Okemasis March band election

Eleven amendments to Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation's election act earlier this week include mandatory drug test for band council hopefuls.

Amendments to First Nations' election act mandate drug testing, reduce council seats

The Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation announced on Monday those who wished to run for chief and council would have to take a mandatory drug test. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation band council hopefuls will need to pass a drug test before they're elected.

Eleven amendments were made to the band's election act earlier this week. Provisions in the act build on a motion made in 2008, when band members voted to make drug testing mandatory. However, nothing was enacted until now.

"There has just be a lot of talk about it since," said Jeremy Seeseequasis, councillor and member of the governance committee for the band. 

A long time coming

"We felt the concerns are there from community members to have it tabled again and have it implemented at the highest level," Seeseequasis said. 

There were no allegations or concerns regarding council members when the policy was originally introduced, he said. It was just a case of people demanding more of elected officials and ensuring the people in power were of sound mind and body.

"There has been lots of pressure from membership to get it done."

Seeseequasis said there have been expectations that those who are chosen to lead the community should be clean of banned substances. (Bofn9697.com)

The costs of the test will have to be paid by the candidates. The drug test would essentially be the first step taken before people announce they're running, Seeseequasis said. 

"Any councillor that wants to run for these offices, these positions, would be clear of the these banned substances."

There are no policies in place currently which would ask the band's current administration to take drug tests, he added. Current leaders will have to take the test when the next round of campaigning starts, he said.

"I think anybody at any level of government should be free of banned substances," he added, saying he would like to see the tests implemented across the board. 

"You're in a position that's held in high regard. People look up to you," Seeseequasis said. "People expect more of elected official."

Cost savings

The new amendments also reduced the number of spots on council.

When the March band election rolls around, people will vote in six councillors, down from the previous eight. Those running for chief will have to pay a $400 fee; a $200 fee will need to be paid for council positions. 

In an earlier press release, Seeseequasis said the changes will save more than $350,000 over the course of a term.

The savings could be used to pay down existing debt or supplement and improve existing programs, the release said.

The band will also no longer incur significant debt as a result of elections thanks to these changes. 

The act was renamed the Beardy's & Okemasis' Cree Nation Election Act as well.

The Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation is located approximately 90 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition