A group of Wemindji residents failed in their attempt to call a re-election in their community when they couldn’t get quorum at a band meeting.

Calling themselves the Wemindji Silent Majority, 137 people signed a petition calling for the special band meeting. At the meeting residents were to decide whether general elections should be called. The meeting was held Oct. 17.

Under the Cree-Naskapi Act, 10 signatures are needed to compell the Band Council to call such a meeting.

Supporters of the current Wemindji administration were relieved when the bid for re-election failed. They said it proves the so-called Silent Majority is only a small minority.

In order for the meeting to be official, 327 eligible voters needed to be present. Only 100 showed up.

However, leading dissents claim supporters of Chief Walter Hughboy were turning people away at the door.

On the night of the re-election meeting, about 100 supporters of Chief Hughboy refused to go into the community hall so quorum couldn’t be reached, according to Marion Tomatuk, one of the main proponents of the petition.

“When I was outside I heard it with my own ears,” said Johnny Georgekish, who also signed the petition. “They were telling the people, ‘You can’t go in. You didn’t sign the petition.'” Georgekish claims he saw mainly young people being targeted and turned away.

Community radio station manager Jacqueline Blackned, a supporter of the current administration and Chief Hughboy’s sister, said she was one of the people who stayed outside. “No one turned people away,” she said. “We never said that to anyone.”

The petition was suspect from the beginning, claims Blackned. She said she knows personally of people who signed the petition who didn’t even know what they were putting their name to.

Another supporter of the current administration, who wished to remain anonymous, said the dissidents are just sore losers. “They’re just crying because they lost. They’re a small little faction of fanatics.”

Francois Robert, a Montreal lawyer who was consulted by the petitioners, said he also heard residents were turned away from the meeting. Robert said all eligible Wemindji voters, whether they signed the petition or not, had the right to enter the meeting. “If people were told they couldn’t go in, that is misleading and abusing the people’s understandingof the law,” Robert said. “If that is what happened, it will be the first time the Cree-Naskapi Act has been used in such a dirty way by preventing people to go into a meeting.”

In a newsletter attached to the petition, which was circulated to Wemindji residents (a copy was also sent to The Nation), Chief Hughboy is taken to task on a wide range of issues.

It alleges, without providing supporting documentation, that the Chief has invested large sums of money in business ventures without consulting the population, has neglected the community’s social problems, did not consult the population early enough on a controversial mini-dam project and continues to hire too many nonnatives.

The letter also alleges the current administration is hiring underqualified Chief Hughboy family members, while demoting others without following normal procedures and employee rights.

The petitioners also claim the administration is considering taking over a number of mandates from the Grand Council of the Crees, and eventually pulling Wemindji out altogether.

The newsletter claims the petition has more signatures than Chief Walter Hughboy received in the last election. The Chief was voted in with 135 votes, the newsletter says.

Chief Hughboy couldn’t be reached for comment.