| May 12, 2005


Feature article,May 12, 2005

Feature article May 12, 2005

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Acrimony, official complaints, as Algonquins elect Negotiation Representatives

by Jeff Green

Doreen Davis has been easily elected as Algonquin Negotiation Representative to the Land Claims Process for those registered Algonquins who identify Sharbot Lake as their community. On Monday after the votes were counted in Pembroke, it was announced that Davis had defeated her opponent Melinda Turcotte in a vote of 280 to 60.

Complete election results are available at http://www.blaney.com/files/algonquin/Election%20Results%20Postings.pdf

In an entirely separate process, Davis was also elected last fall as Chief of the Sharbot Mishigama Algonquin First Nation under the rubric of the Algonquin Nation Tribal Council (ANTC).

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With this latest election, five of the nine positions for off-reserve non-status Algonquins at the Land Claims table will be held by members of the ANTC executive, and four will be held by independent community representatives. The seven members of the Council of the Pikwakanagan First Nation of Golden Lake will also be at the negotiating table.

There has been at least one official complaint levied about this latest election. It alleges that Patrick Glassford of Greater Golden Lake confounded the Algonquin Negotiation election by confusing his role as ANTC chief with that of candidate for Algonquin Negotiation Representative. The complaint further alleges that two other candidates, Richard Zohr of Bonnechere, and Doreen Davis of Sharbot Lake, have done the same thing.

In order to understand all this, a bit of history is necessary. The Algonquin National Tribal Council, established a few years ago as a political body to represent the interests of member communities, has become controversial for the Council of Pikwakanagan and certain other off-reserve Algonquins. The reasons for this are many. The hunting agreements entered into by the ANTC and the Ministry of Natural Resources have been challenged, as has the political structure of the organization. Two communities within the Land Claim territory, contain competing Council structures, one affiliated with the ANTC and one opposed to the ANTC.

For this reason Algonquin Chief Negotiator Robert Potts set up what he called a non-political Algonquin Negotiation Representative Process, to come up with popularly elected individuals with the sole task of representing their electors, (groups of 125 or more individuals who have agreed to align themselves with a particular community).

Both the Pikwakanagan Council and the leadership of the ANTC signed on to this process. The registration process was completed earlier this winter, and it confirmed over 5,000 individuals of verified Algonquin descent as electors, affiliated with nine different communities. When it came down to holding an election, six of the ANTC chiefs sought the positions.

Of those six, two were acclaimed, and three of the other four were easily elected last week. But it is the conduct of these three campaigns, those of Richard Zohr, Patrick Glassford, and Doreen Davis that has led to complaints, both official and unofficial.

In all three cases, campaign literature used the phrase Algonquin Nation Representative in place of Algonquin Negotiation Representative, a distinction that may seem subtle to outsiders, but to opponents signals an attempt to confound voters.

When questioned about this prior to official complaints being lodged, Robert Potts told the News that he considered these wording changes as mistakes. (The word Nation was also mistakenly used in place of the word Negotiation in an article, Elections Rejuvenate Land Claim, published April 28, 2005, in the Frontenac News).

However, as Lynn Gehl, who has launched a formal appeal, has stated, in one case the information from the official Algonquin Negotiation Representative website was copied directly by Patrick Glassford into his Greater Golden Lake First Nation website, with the only change being that of the word Negotiation to Nation.

As well, anothercandidate who lost out to Richard Zohr, David Laronde, said in a circulated email message that the website of Richard Zohr was altered on May 6, with the word Nation being changed to Negotiation. Further he asserted that it was his understanding that this was done under instructions from Robert Potts office in response to complaints from people from Pikwakanagan.

The complaints extend beyond the words Nation and Negotiation to the various aspects of the election process.

While it is up to the election team, headed by Bob Johnson, to adjudicate any complaints, a cursory look at the campaign literature of Richard Zohr, Patrick Glassford and Doreen Davis does reveal a certain defiance in regards to the current process. All three consider themselves legitimate leaders, with the ANTC being a legitimate body, and their literature reflects that.

Patrick Glassford wrote that he strongly disagrees with those that are saying the two positions [chief and land claims negotiator] are or should be separate. I believe this would inevitably divide us. I firmly believe it is in our collective best interests to send a strong chief with the political authority to do the job.

At the conclusion of his literature he made a commitment, tying his candidacy for negotiator firmly to his authority as an ANTC chief.

If the community should choose not to support the Chief, I promise a graceful exit of my leadership. Now is the time to support your Chief!

Whether the complaints are successful or not, Paul Lamothe, the acclaimed Negotiation Representative from Ottawa community, an outspoken critic of the ANTC, has said his community is considering whether they should carry on with the negotiations or not.

Lamothe was not able to lodge a formal complaint about the election process because he was acclaimed, but has said he will look closely at how the complaints are dealt with, and will report back to his community.

Paul Lamothe claims that at an election meeting in Pembroke, Robert Potts said that all nine communities must be party to any agreement. If one community leaves the table, the process is finished, he said Paul Lamothe told the News this week.

For his part, Robert Potts told the News he considers that the election was a fair and honest attempt to come up with democratically elected representatives to conduct land claims negotiations within an admittedly tight time frame.

This is only the beginning. The representatives will be expected to consult, consult, consult, with their communities as we go along. Any final agreement will be subject to some sort of ratification process as well. The elections are not the end of community involvement.

Robert Potts is planning to convene a meeting of negotiation representatives shortly, intending to resume negotiations with the federal and provincial governments in September.

Before getting to those negotiations, he will have to overcome defiance from all sides of the table he has been painstakingly populating over the past 18 months

(The above article was edited after a similar article was printed in the Frontenac News. The original article contained errors of attribution which were corrected for posting on newsweb.ca)

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