The Montreal Lake Cree Nation appears to still be operating under two chiefs who each have their own interpretation on why they merit the role.
But his opponent, Edward Henderson was sworn in as chief of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation on Feb. 1.
Henderson maintains he is the Cree Nation's chief after he called for a general election in December to try and end the confusion.
“We went through the election act; under the election act… as long as you have quorum, chief and council can call for a general election, so that’s what we did,” Henderson said. “We wanted to give the vote back to the membership.”
Roberts, however, previously disputed the call for a general election as he said proper process was not followed in Henderson's call for a vote.
To combat results of the general election, Roberts and his council signed a Band Council Resolution, or order, in early January stating the general election had no grounds to move forward. Roberts signed that document as chief of the Cree Nation.
Henderson responded to these actions after he was sworn in as chief on Feb. 1, citing a seperate appeal tribunal decision issued in the fall of 2017. The second decision, separate from the decision that stated Roberts as chief, named Henderson as chief.
This is the latest development in a series of political moves that has left the band members confused about the leadership situation in Montreal Lake.
A community of twos
Currently the Montreal Lake Cree Nation has two chiefs, two councils and two band managers; it all stems from two different appeal tribunal decisions which followed two elections that were called for by two separate electoral officers.
The dispute began after a spring 2017 election where Roberts was disqualified as an electoral candidate for chief. He was told he had outstanding rental arrears and was named in a legal dispute with the Cree Nation.
Henderson won that spring election, but his title was soon challenged by Roberts who filed an appeal with Clifford Bird, the electoral officer of that election.
The appeal tribunal released its decision in the fall 2017 and declared a byelection could be called to resolve the dispute. For that to move forward, however, Roberts had to prove he had no rental arrears, and withdraw his name from the legal dispute. In the interim before that byelection, the tribunal declared Henderson as chief.
Roberts met the conditions and Chief Electoral Officer Clifford Bird called a byelection in November of last year. In that byelection, Roberts was acclaimed as chief, as his two opponents removed themselves from the running leaving Roberts the sole candidate.
Henderson did not participate in the November byelection.
Henderson said he did not recognize the byelection process as legitimate as he, as chief, had not signed a Band Council Resolution calling for the vote, as per the Cree Nation's election act.
Henderson, released a press statement in December calling for a general election to start fresh and reduce uncertainty in the Cree Nation. A Band Council Resolution signed by four councillors and Henderson as chief accompanied the press statement.
Roberts mirrored Henderson in the sense that he did not run as a candidate in Henderson's general election on Jan. 30.
Henderson won the election, beating one other candidate. He said his Band Council Resolution trumped the appeal tribunal decision which named Roberts as chief.
Roberts said he, as chief, refused to fund or recognize any results from the vote.
Despite uncertainty, a ceremony goes forward
Yesterday, Feb. 1, Henderson was joined at the Little Red River 106B band hall by three councillors; Robert and Alphonse Lavallee and Dallas Naytowhow who were sworn into their positions as well. A fourth councillor, Debbie Kasheep, will be sworn in at a law office in Prince Albert “very soon” according to Henderson's general election's Chief Electoral Officer Andrew Douglas.
With the swearing in of the four councillors, that leaves three vacancies on the council which has seven seats total.
Henderson said the empty spots are due to a lack of candidates in the general election. He said community members were concerned about running in the election as Roberts' camp questioned its legitimacy.
On the same day as the swearing in ceremony, Douglas officially called a byelection to fill the void.
“Now that [potential candidates] realize that this general election was legit and legal, more people will put their names forward for the three positions,” Henderson said of his hopes for the April byelection.
Despite the empty seats, Henderson's council still meets guidelines to represent the Cree Nation according to governance documents.
Roberts' position on Henderson's election as chief of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation is unclear.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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