Beardy’s and Okemasis executive act takes steps towards accountability

By Bryan Eneas
November 17, 2016 - 5:05pm

Using their Treaty rights to self-governance, the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation is looking to introduce an executive act to spell out accountability and transparency.

Kevin Seesequasis, a councillor from the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation, is using his past experiences to help develop the act. He said he feels the people of Beardy’s deserve as much accountability, openness, and honesty from their leadership as can be provided.

“We’ve tried to make (the act) as comprehensive as possible to ensure our leaders are accountable. One of the unique aspects of the executive act for the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation is we’re trying to legislate this document,” Seesequasis said. “It’s not some policy that a council or chief, or individual members of council, or a committee can change.”

The act includes two interesting clauses pertaining to accountability.

Up for discussion is a mid-term review, which seeks to provide residents of the first Nation an opportunity to voice their concerns anonymously and provide constructive criticism to their leadership. Seesequasis drew the idea from his work in federal politics, where he was part of different leadership reviews.

“I feel the midterm leadership review is an opportunity for our community members to feel confident that their voice will be heard, but who also might not necessarily have the confidence to come directly to me, or to other members of our council,” Seesequasis said.

Membership is allowed to voice their concerns at chief and council meetings, but Seesequaisis hoped the anonymous aspect of the act may empower more citizens to speak up. He said the idea is not without its detractors.

“(The mid-term review) is raising a lot of eyebrows, and I’m getting a lot of questions about it,” Seesequasis said.

During the second Treaty Day celebrations of chief and council’s terms, community members will be provided an opportunity to participate in the review.

In 2008, Beardy’s and Okemasis membership voted overwhelmingly in favour of mandatory drug testing for chief and council. According to Seesequasis, 92 per cent of the votes cast called for mandatory testing. It has since flip-flopped between voluntary and back to mandatory for chief and council.

“It is one of those hot-button topics where we have to find the balance between respecting an individual’s rights, but also meeting community needs,” Seesequasis said.

Seesequasis said he feels leaders in the community need to be clear-headed when making decisions which impact the 3,300 people in Beardy’s and Okemasis.

Seesequasis has gone through a comprehensive consultation process to bring the act to life. Using social and traditional media, community consultation meetings on the First Nation and in Edmonton, as well as good old fashioned door knocking, the community has had many opportunities to give their opinions.

“There was very, very positive feedback, I’m very excited about what community members are saying,” Seesequasis said. “There was some resistance to some of the change, of course, just because it’s new.

The first reading of the act drew a crowd of 150 people to the community hall.

“Accountability for me is living and working with integrity,” Seesequasis said. “Not some textbook definition, but the type of integrity First Nations people have learned through their customs, traditions, and our oral history. I think we haven’t seen enough of it, and I think that’s why this document is so important.”

The executive act still must pass a third reading before membership ultimately votes. Tentatively, the third reading is scheduled for December 18.

According to Seesequasis, if the process goes smoothly, the act will be included on a ballot for membership to vote on at the next elections.

Elections are slated for March, 2017.

 

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