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Time for an election code overhaul

Time for an election code overhaul
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Six Nations social media circles have been swirling the last month or so with conversations about what the community wants in its leadership. And the conversation is saying one thing loud and clear — Six Nations is looking for younger, millennial thinking in positions of leadership. While we can’t necessarily work as a community to

Six Nations social media circles have been swirling the last month or so with conversations about what the community wants in its leadership. And the conversation is saying one thing loud and clear — Six Nations is looking for younger, millennial thinking in positions of leadership.

While we can’t necessarily work as a community to overhaul the way hereditary chiefs are installed, we can do something to change the current elected council system by putting our minds together and deciding who should be eligible for seats on council.

It is time for an Election Code overhaul.

Copies of the existing Election Code are available at the Six Nations Elected Council office. This undated document gives the minimal requirements necessary for a person to be nominated to run for a seat on the council.

Candidates must be band members, permanent residents and must live in the district they are running in. If an elected councillor of elected chief moves off the reserve or out of the district they were voted into, the current code says that person, with the exception of house fires or “unusual circumstances beyond their control”, forfeits their seat and a vacancy opens up.

Six Nations Elected Council now has 12 councillors, two elected for each district. That system does not line up with the logic or infrastructure of a very mobile 2018 Six Nations.

Instead of having districts, Six Nations could change the Election Code to open up all 12 seats to the best candidates the community has to offer.

In fact, given the on-going housing crisis in this community, the Election Code should be changed to permit non-resident band members to run as well.

The current Election Code also permits persons to be nominated who have a criminal record as long as they are three years away from “an indictable offence in Canada or a Felony in the United States”.

This seems quite outrageous in 2018. How about changing that? No one who has ever been convicted of sex crimes, assault, child or spousal abuse, murder or financial crimes should never be permitted to hold office in this community. Hard stop.

Elected councillors are not regular band employees. However, in an age where advocacy and reconciliation are moving so fast on Ottawa’s end, Six Nations needs to pick up the pace.

Elected councillors should be full-time advocacy positions to protect the rights and interests of the Six Nations community from further erosion by the federal government. And those elected in should have the educational background or advocacy experience to be able to do that work.

Other Haudenosaunee communities have enacted change to their election codes. Currently, the final stages of Election Code updates are being approved at Kahnawake.

There is hope for our future in this community. But there is a lot of work to do as well. And it seems a widening generation gap and community infrastructure better suited for the 1990s may be making that work a lot harder to complete.

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