Application granted. Procedural fairness applies even when not directly incorporated into a First Nation’s custom election code.
This application for judicial review is brought pursuant to s 18.1 of the Federal Courts Act, regarding a decision by an Election Appeal Board, constituted in connection with the Maskekosihk Enoch Cree Nation #440 Election Law [“MECN Election Law”]. The majority of voters of the Maskekosihk Enoch Cree Nation approved the MECN Election Law in 2018. It was enacted and adopted into the laws of that First Nation.
In this matter, the Applicant, Mr. Jared Morin and Respondent, Mr. Shane Peacock are members of the Enoch Cree Nation and both ran for the position of band councillor in the 2019 election. The counting of the ballots for councillors was conducted and there was found that both Mr. Morin and Mr. Peacock had received 319 votes. However, this “tie” is disputed as a councillor’s ballot was found in a ballot box intended for votes for the chief. That councillor’s ballot was for Mr. Morin. As some candidates ran for election as chief or councillor, the outcome of the election for chief had the potential to affect the outcome of the election to the 10th councillor position.
The Electoral Officer declared this tie and, in accordance with s 17.2 of the MECN Election Law, Mr. Morin and Mr. Peacock’s names were placed in a hat. The name drawn from the hat was Applicant. The Election Officer declared him the winner of the 10th councillor position.
Mr. Peacock subsequently submitted a brief to the Election Appeal Board that asserted the Electoral Officer improperly handled the councillor’s ballot found in the ballot box for votes for chief during the counting of the votes for the position of chief. That ballot, according to the brief, should have been considered as spoiled and not counted. In that event, Mr. Peacock would have had 319 votes and Mr. Morin would have had 318 votes, there would not have been a tie vote, and there would have been no need to conduct a tie breaking hat draw. The 10th councillor position in the 2019 election for the Maskekosihk Enoch Cree Nation chief and band council were then overturned and a by-election ordered.
This Court finds that the Election Appeal Board breached the duty of procedural fairness owed to Mr. Morin by failing to give him notice of that appeal, and as a result, deprived him of the opportunity to address the appeal allegations. The Election Appeal Board also erred by failing to notify the Electoral Officer of the appeal and in failing to obtain the Electoral Officer’s written reasons for his decision, in breach of s 20.7 of the MECN Election Law. This was unreasonable and rendered its decision unreasonable.
Given that Enoch Cree Nation did not challenge Mr. Morin’s allegation that the Election Appeal Board breached procedural fairness, and given that he has been successful in his application for judicial review in that the decision of the Election Appeal Board will be quashed and remitted back for redetermination, it is appropriate that he should be awarded the costs of his application as against the Enoch Cree Nation.