Some Waswanipi residents thought they’d see a changing of the political guard February 4 in a special general meeting called to address demands for early elections. Six hundred people were needed to set the quorum at the meeting. But because all that could be mustered was a meagre 150, Chief Robert Kitchen and his council can serve out the rest of their terms.
“Obviously I’m really disappointed,” said Irene Neeposh, one of the people hoping for a free vote before the next elections. “It wasn’t very well handled. They [the band council] weren’t open to it and I’m disappointed in the Cree-Naskapi Commission, which was supposed to get in touch with me to let me know if someone was coming but they never called me back.”
Neeposh added that if someone was present from the committee, they might have been able to make a ruling whether to reschedule the meeting or not.
“It seems to me like they’re just there to read the act to people who want to know about it, but not to intervene,” she said.
Brian Shawana, Director of the Cree-Naskapi Commission, told the Nation that he tried to get a hold of Neeposh on her cell phone, but it was off. “In any case, the Cree-Naskapi Commission does not have the power to intervene in local level elections,” he said.
Even if they attended the meeting, they wouldn’t have been able to do anything about the outcome, Shawana said.
“To me it just validated that the people aren’t being listened to,” said Neeposh. “The band council refused to move the meeting to a later date. There was also a funeral and some of the people I spoke to said that there was no way they were going to go to a political gathering when there were two recent deaths in the community.”
One of the deaths was Kitchen’s brother, Sam, who passed away February 2.
Now the people who oppose Kitchen will have to wait at least another year before they can bring it up again, according to John Jolly, the Assistant Returning Officer. “Although I don’t think it will happen now because the election is next summer,” Jolly said.
Chief Kitchen could not be reached for comment.