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Arguments in TFN election results appeal heard

A decision is expected in the coming weeks

The Tsawwassen First Nation's Judicial Council heard arguments on the weekend why September's election result should be tossed.

Open only for TFN members to watch, Saturday's proceeding was to hear appeals launched by two individuals that claimed there was a voting irregularity in the Sept. 5 election.

"The Judicial Council will now study the evidence and information provided at the hearing, and is slated to render a decision within the next weeks. It will make its decision known to the parties to the appeal, the TFN Executive Council and the TFN members and then to the public," stated a TFN news release.

Bryce Williams, a 23-year-old carver, defeated longtime incumbent Kim Baird to become the TFN's new chief. The vote was 78 to 69 in favour of Williams, who was first elected to the TFN's government in 2009.

Baird, who was acclaimed in the previous election, had been chief since 1999. Her defeat was seen a surprise to many.

Only 140 of the 260 eligible voters (57 per cent) cast ballots in the election.

Baird didn't personally launch an appeal but her brother, Mike Baird, was one of the two appellants. The other was Christina Shellar.

According to a press release, they filed appeals in regard to the timing of election notices.

"There was a wrong day on one of the election notices and we felt that this impacted the outcome of the election which compelled us to appeal the results to the Tsawwassen First Nation Judicial Council," said Mike Baird.

"Every Tsawwassen member is entitled to a clear and fair voting process, and this mistake did not allow for every member to vote - including myself," said Shellar.

Both appellants participated in the hearing, but the press release noted they wouldn't comment further until a decision is handed down.

The press release was issued by Alex Rose, a friend of Kim Baird and a former public relations advisor for the TFN, who's also author of a book on aboriginal business leaders, including Baird, to be released next year.

The TFN's Election Act states when it comes to inadvertent errors, no election is to be declared invalid and the chief or a legislator is not to be disqualified by reason of mistake or non-compliance if, in the opinion of Judicial Council, the non-compliance or mistake did not reasonably affect the final result of the election.

The TFN Judicial Council is the First Nation's equivalent to a Supreme Court. Members of the council are chosen for their expertise and experience in the Canadian judicial and financial system, and operate at arm's length from TFN government, according to the First Nation. Three members of the council heard the election appeal.