In a strange twist to the August 14 election in Waskaganish, newly elected Chief Gordon Blueboy resigned his post less than a month after winning the position due to “resistance” to his leadership, among other reasons.
Blueboy, who faxed a statement to his constituents and to the Nation, would not comment directly on the matter.
Incumbent Chief Robert Weistche was unable to run because of the current two-term limit, leaving the race wide open between Blueboy and other candidates, including second-place finisher Simeon Trapper and Ian Diamond, former chief Billy Diamond’s son.
“From the beginning of my time in office, I felt that there was resistance to my leadership,” Blueboy said in his prepared statement. “On various occasions my authority as chief was undermined. It appeared that there was division and an unwillingness to work together professionally for the betterment of the community and its members.”
Blueboy handed in his resignation on September 10 at a chief and council meeting.
“In addition to these reasons,” Blueboy added, “I believe the lack of support provided made it impossible to ensure that the office of the Chief could function properly or effectively which would only serve to harm the community and people.”
He continued, “I hope that my abrupt departure as Chief will motivate all members of the Crees of the Waskaganish First Nation to become very concerned about the serious issues negatively affecting our community and that you will take positive actions towards resolving the problems.”
He went on to clarify that his resignation had nothing to do with his ability to work with others, family problems or threats.
Although it is unclear what these problems were, it is unprecedented in Eeyou Istchee for a chief to resign less than a month after being elected. It is true that the community of Waskaganish has seen turbulent times recently, with incidents such as the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the housing fund.
But one band council member implied that Blueboy didn’t give the new council a chance to work together.
“When there is a change in leadership it really requires a change of not only the council, but the staff that has to go through a transition as well,” said Deputy Chief Steve Diamond, who is now interim chief. “Every leader has a different style. I had to change as well. Saying no one is willing to work with you is lumping everyone into one basket so to speak.”
Diamond also said most of the council is newly elected, which he saw as a way to freshen up the situation.
“Most of the council did everything to accommodate the new chief,” said Diamond. “There was excitement and enthusiasm and we looked forward to going in a new direction.”
Diamond would not comment directly on certain inflammatory parts of the statement, adding that he has not had a chance to clarify with Blueboy some of the issues brought up within it.
“I can’t argue if what he said was true or untrue,” he said. “There are strengths and weaknesses of every organization. It’s up to us as leaders to maximize the strength and work on fixing the weaknesses.”
Diamond said the whole incident has taken a toll on him as Deputy Chief and because of flooding recently in the community; the council has not yet had a chance to deal with the situation.
Returning Officer John Henry Wapachee said the situation is strange. “It hasn’t happened before. “Only in the case when a chief was forced to resign, but a chief coming in for a couple of weeks… that’s something I’ve never seen.”
He said the next step is another election, in due time, but he is not sure if he will be the returning officer this time around. “It’s only normal to see that it goes back to the people again for them to make another decision. This is a situation we don’t normally see,” said Wapachee, who has been a returning officer for 18 years.
Numerous calls to Blueboy’s residence went unreturned.
Waskaganish is expected to call another election in October to fill the now-vacant position of chief.
Former Chief Robert Weistche was reached by the Nation before Blueboy’s resignation. He praised Blueboy, saying he was a good candidate to lead the community of approximately 2,000 people. Weistche lamented the fact that he could not run again due to the community’s two-term limit, but he did not rule out running again in four years.
Blueboy concluded his statement by saying, “I have been known to stand for the principles of honesty, accountability and transparency in leadership. I continue to stand for these principles.”“He’s a good man, a person of integrity,” said Diamond. “I worked with him before and I don’t think he does things for selfish reasons. He believes he had to resign and I can’t argue if his reasons were valid or not.”