The Chief of Wemindji, Walter Hughboy, says Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come should stay out of Wemindji’s internal business.
“Matthew Coon Come doesn’t have the right to interfere or get involved in Wemindji’s electoral process,” said Chief Hughboy. “I don’t know if he read the Wemindji election by-laws or the ruling handed down by the judge, but he has no right to tell an elected chief to redo a election. It is not even the local chief or local band council or any elected official who has the right to decide to have an election. It’s the members of the community.”
Chief Hughboy was responding to Grand Chief Coon Come’s comments in the last issue of The Nation. Coon Come commented on rumours of irregularities that have plagued the election for chief held in Wemindji last fall.
“If they want an election, they should have one,” Coon Come said in the March 31 issue of The Nation. “The people should be listened to.”
Hughboy said there is a process to redo elections under the Cree-Naskapi Act or local election by-laws, but that no one has taken any steps to hold another election. “The process is there to have another election should the people wish it. But I would be foolish to resign and cost the people of Wemindji money for another election when this one was valid.”
Some Wemindji residents complained about the short amount of time allowed for nominating candidates,
Hughboy said this time limit was put in place because trappers and hunters were only in town for a short period of time. But he said people are beginning to realize that the old time constraints necessary to accommodate the trappers’ and hunters’ movements aren’t as valid in today’s Cree world. He said this by-law can be changed, but only by the people, not the band council.
Hughboy stressed that he has been unfairly critized. “No one has come in to talk to us and really evaluated what we’ve done in Wemindji.” He said the council isn’t perfect, but no person or entity is.
He said one of the council’s accomplishments is tripling the value of the Sakami Eeyou Corporation in the past 10 years. The Sakami Eeyou Corporation manages the heritage money granted to Wemindji in 1979 as compensation for excessive water levels in the Sakami Lake reservoir.
Hughboy also said Wemindji residents have gotten free electricity for the last 11 years from a mini-dam built by Wemindji (flow-of-the-river style). This works out to about $5.5 million of electricity for the 170 houses. Potential exists for Wemindji to sell power to Hydro-Quebec in the future if residents give the band council authority to add two more mini-dams. Under Hughboy, Wemindji also got a trucking company, airline, an access road, mini-mall, arena, housing, a community center and other infrastructures. Given that monies from Sakami were used for these and other in-vestments, it’s money well-spent, said Hughboy.