The First Nations Elections Act will become law shortly. When that happens, First Nations who currently follow the Indian Act election procedures will have the option of choosing the election procedures under the new First Nations Election Act.

The Federal Government today published draft Regulations that it proposes to enact sometime after March 9, 2015 when the deadline for public feedback ends. The Regulations set out the rules that will govern elections under the new First Nations Elections Act. These rules provide for things such as the appointment of a returning officer, advance polls, mail-in ballots, nominations and voting procedures. A summary of the draft Regulations and the draft Regulations themselves can be found here

A key feature of the new First Nations Elections Act is the 4 year term for Chief and Council instead of the current 2 year terms. Another provision would end the practice of sending a mail-in ballot to all off-Reserve members and would only require that a mail-in ballot be sent if an off-Reserve member sends a request for one. Also a person must choose to run either for Chief or Council; the same person cannot be nominated for both positions. The Regulations will also allow First Nations to impose a fee that each person running for Chief or a position on Council would have to pay. It will be up to each First Nation to decide if a fee will be charged and if so how much the fee will be. The fee can only be $250 or less and it must be returned to a candidate who receives over 5% of the vote.

There is one thing that is absent from the Regulations. The First Nation Elections Act permits the Government to add to the Regulations terms that would allow a sufficient number of First Nation members to sign a petition to have the Chief or a Councillor removed from office. However, the Government has apparently decided not to provide for such petitions in the proposed Regulations. However it is open for the Government to do so in the future.

The proposed Regulations look reasonable and are a step forward for First Nations currently under the Indian Act election procedures. But if you are considering choosing the new First Nations Elections Act procedures in order to avoid the shortcomings in the Indian Act procedures, there is another option. Maybe now is the time to consider adopting a custom election by-law made specifically to suit the unique circumstances of your First Nation rather than rely on the procedures set out in the Federal legislation and regulations.

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