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Chief removed, election ordered for Morley

Although an appeal is said to be in the works, a federal court judge sided with members of the Bearspaw First Nation in their fight for an election. The verdict, which came down June 22, removes Chief David Bearspaw Jr.

Although an appeal is said to be in the works, a federal court judge sided with members of the Bearspaw First Nation in their fight for an election.

The verdict, which came down June 22, removes Chief David Bearspaw Jr. and council from office and orders an election to take place within 60 days.

“My clients were ecstatic with the result,” said Calgary-based lawyer Heather Treacy, who represented Bearspaw members Robert Shotclose, Harvey Baptiste, Corrine Wesley, Myrna Powderface, Cindy Daniels and Wanda Rider.

But, according to the Calgary Herald, the ousted chief and council planned to file an appeal and stay of the judge’s decision through their lawyer, Jeffrey Rath, on June 27. Rath did not return a call from the Cochrane Eagle.

An appeal would be disappointing, said Treacy. “It is in the community’s best interest to move forward.”

Last September, the chief and council for the band west of Cochrane renewed terms of office without holding an election.

The decision was made after a survey was circulated to 420 band members – roughly 52 per cent of the Bearspaw population – who narrowly agreed to put off an election for chief.

The council also extended its term under an alleged direction from band elders.

“The court did not agree with that,” said Treacy, adding the judge found the elders to be a carefully chosen group with many members of the chief’s family included.

Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley called the entire process “flawed” and said it was not acting in accordance with tribal customs.

Treacy said the band has been having elections roughly every two years since the 1950s.

The issue ended up before the court after a group of Bearspaw members banded together to challenge the election cancellation and fundraised in the community for lawyer fees.

Eden Valley, a satellite community of the Bearspaw First Nation, even held road blockades last fall in protest.

The Bearspaw band is part of the Stoney Nakoda Nation, along with the Chiniki and Wesley bands.

Rachel Maclean is editor of the Cochrane Eagle.


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