Getting out of the Indian Act: One Step at a Time

On nomination night in Mount Currie I wrote about some of the idiosyncrasies of the Indian Act which governs elections for most First Nations in Canada. By “idiosyncracies”, I meant things like 2 year election cycle, no requirement to be Lil’wat to run for Chief, and candidates holding both the Chief and Councilor positions.

The election provisions of the Indian Act are just an example of how the law is archaic.

It was enacted in 1876 and is woefully deficient in providing the modern governing institutions that First Nation need to be economically, socially, and politically successful.

Plus, the Indian Act has no cultural resonance with any First Nations in Canada. How could it: it was written to oversee the gradual assimilation of First Nations.

For these reasons, many First Nations have aspired to get out of the Indian Act.

Unfortunately, the means to do so are extremely limited.

One option is to “step out” of specific sections of the Indian Act where a mechanism exists to do so. One such mechanism is for elections. Approximately 50% of First Nations in BC have done just that and enacted what is called a community designed (or “custom”) election code.

On March 9, Mount Currie Band Members will be voting on their own community designed Lil’wat Nation Election Code.

If approved the new code would replace the Indian Act for elections in Mount Currie and remove the authority of the Minister of Indian Affairs over elections.

As far as elections are concerned, Lil’wat can become self-governing.

Some of the other specific changes that would be enacted if the new Code is approved:

  • 4 year terms for Council;
  • Eligibility requirements for candidates (like must be a Lil’wat citizen!);
  • Internal process for election appeals;
  • Requirement to run for only one office;
  • Detailed rules to ensure transparent and fair elections.

This is a big step for Lil’wat and one that is consistent with their strategic vision.

It takes them one small step out of the Indian Act and one big step closer to self-determination for and by Lil’wat.

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