Barriere Lake, Que. — The newly acclaimed chief of a small northern Algonquin community is expected to reject the position later today in protest over Indian Affairs’ decision to impose a band council under rarely used Indian Act powers, his father claims.
Casey Ratt was acclaimed as chief of Barriere Lake this morning, according to the electoral officer hired by Indian Affairs to run the band election.
Ratt’s father, Sever Ratt, told APTN National News this morning that his son would not accept the position.
If Ratt rejects the position, it will undercut the legitimacy of the remaining band council who were also acclaimed this morning.
Ratt had opposed the imposition of an Indian Act secret ballot band election imposed by the department to replace the community’s traditional mode of selecting leaders.
Another community member who had worked with Ratt to stop the election of a band council said the new chief was expected to reject the post.
“He mentioned he had been nominated last week and he was supposed to decline that publicly or in writing,” said Tony Wawati.
Wawati said he believed the community planned to continue fighting Indian Affairs to preserve their customary leadership selection process.
“(Indian Affairs) pulled a fast one on us,” he said.
Casey Ratt could not be immediately reached for comment.
An attempt Thursday by Indian Affairs to set up a nomination poll was blocked by community members who turned electoral officer Bob Norton away for a second time.
Norton said Friday morning that the new chief and band council had been acclaimed to their posts based on nominations handed to him over the past several weeks.
Norton said Ratt was acclaimed as chief, along with councillors Anita Decoursey, Chad Thusky, Steve Wawati and Hector Jerome.
Norton said all were nominated by at least two people.
Norton said the results could be appealed to the deputy minister on grounds of corruption or faulty process.
He also said that if two of the five quit it would force a by-election.
Long plagued by internal divisions, warring factions within the community seemed to have formed a united front against the department’s attempt to abolish Barriere Lake’s traditional leadership selection process and impose an Indian Act band council.
Former Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl invoked rarely used powers under the Indian Act to abolish the community’s customary leadership selection code called Blazing.
Strahl demanded the band use secret ballot voting to select their council in an attempt to end a power-struggle within the community.
Barriere Lake’s custom code was based on the community approving or rejecting of candidates selected by an elders council.
Ratt had recently signed a letter along with former chief Jean-Maurice Matchewan rejecting the imposition of an Indian Act band council.
“The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are united in their fervent opposition to the minister-imposed band council elections,” sated the July 18 letter to Strahl.
Barriere Lake, one of the poorest First Nations communities in Canada, sits about 300 kilometres north of Ottawa.