There’s a new twist to the controversial result in a vote for chief and council of the Cree community of Washaw Sibi last July 26: the community’s returning officer, Simeon Trapper, was fired during an impromptu band council meeting August 7, only two days before the community was to vote in a new election.
Trapper had intended to redo the election, but, according council member Fred Wapachee, the original vote results are now final. That means Billy Katapatuk has beat out Jimmy Roderick Trapper by 43 votes to 41 and he now is the officially declared chief. Ronnie Trapper was a distant third. The result included two spoiled ballots. Dorothy Poison and Margaret Mowat were elected to serve as councilors.
As the Nation previously reported, the Amos region community of Washaw Sibi was on the verge of holding a second vote. Simeon Trapper, the now former returning officer, is shocked that he found out about his termination only the day before a new vote was to be held. “I come in to work Thursday morning and the door was locked,” he said.
Washaw Sibi Band Councilor Fred Wapachee said Trapper was trying to call an illegal election. “He took the power of chief and council to call an election on his own,” said Wapachee. “The returning officer decided to make a decision on his own, without a report filed to council along with any valid contestations or grounds. He decided to call for new elections without recommendations to council.”
The election result for Chief was contested by various community members. That led to Trapper’s decision hold a new vote on August 9. “When I was supposed to do the elections, the door was locked, he [Fred Wapachee] changed the knob, he changed my keys. I don’t know what happened.”
Trapper believed he was acting legally and justly as the returning officer when he called for new elections. There had been much public demand for a revote, including a 40-name petition and complaints from other sources. Trapper thinks he was fired for trying to appease those demands. He said he is both angry and frustrated.
Wapachee “has given me a bad name and I don’t like it so now there is no chief, nobody has declared a chief and I don’t know what I can say,” Trapper said.
Wapachee said a council meeting took place during the AGA in Chisasibi August 7, when they “passed a band council resolution to cancel the call by the returning officer and also any individual that may call such election.”
The council viewed the “contestations” as invalid, Wapachee said.
“It was contested by two letters,” Wapachee claimed. “One was an omitted name on the voters’ list and that was not a valid reason for contestation because the onus is on the voter to ensure that his or her name is on the voting list and they waited until the last day to try to enroll. The second reason was that the vote was close but our election procedures state that the candidate that has the highest number of votes shall be declared the chief. So, that contestation was no good and the third was in a petition form, signed by 40 signatures of Washaw Sibi members, all based on allegations and accusations of corruption and so forth.”
Wapachee said council’s position is that the group who had put out the petition had not proven its allegations. “Without any court documents to prove it there weren’t any actual facts behind it,” said Wapachee. “Therefore, the July 26 election results are official and final, and the Grand Chief [Matthew Mukash] has already congratulated Billy Katapatuk as chief for the next four years.”
Washaw Sibi’s election procedures are not governed by the Indian Act. Wapachee insists that the community’s election policies are “in line with the Cree Nation communities,” as they wish to one day be governed under the Cree Naskapi Act.
According to Section 78 of the Cree Naskapi Act, a returning officer must send the details of a contested election result to a Court of Quebec or Superior Court judge within two weeks of the vote. Only if the investigating judge finds the case to be well-founded will the election be declared invalid.