The Innu Nation has called an early election for its members in Natuashish and Sheshatshiu.
Grand Chief Prote Poker said they could have waited another year to finish their term. But he and the board of directors thought it best to clean the slate due to ongoing tensions and conflict.
“There’s problems, we have … in-fighting within the board. And there’s also requests from the communities that they want a general election,” said Poker.
The Innu of Labrador will get a chance to select their leaders on Aug. 15.
The decision to call an election came during an Innu Nation board meeting on July 12 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Poker would not go into detail about the problems surrounding the Innu Nation.
“There’s a lot of personal issues that came up and I don’t think they should be mentioned,” said Poker.
“There’s a lot of allegations and stuff like that. And we don’t want to go through another year with that. So we decided to hold an election and see what happens.”
But one of the controversies, concerning Deputy Grand Chief Jeremy Andrew, has already been aired publicly.
On July 3, Poker sent a memo to Innu Nation board members to inform them that Andrew was still the deputy grand chief, despite the fact that he verbally resigned during a June board meeting.
The memo was later obtained by The Labradorian.
According to Poker in the memo, only written resignations can be accepted.
“Our bylaw requires that a director (which includes the deputy grand chief) can only resign if he or she submits their resignation in writing,” he wrote. “The deputy grand chief has not done so. He is therefore still the deputy grand chief and is still on the payroll and is entitled to be paid accordingly.”
In an interview, Poker said Andrew must have had a change of heart about resigning, since he never did so via letter.
Poker also defended Andrew from allegations that he wasn’t showing up for work at the Innu Nation office. According to Poker, Andrew had no choice but to work from home because there was a threat of protests.
“He was working out of his house because there was people threatening to shut down the office if he comes to work …” said Poker.
“We don’t want to see destruction of the office if he goes there.”
The Labradorian made numerous attempts to contact Andrew, but he did not return calls by deadline.
During the Aug. 15 election, the two Innu communities will select a grand chief, deputy grand chief, and 12 other members to the board of directors — six from each community.
The position of grand chief was held in Natuashish, and the deputy grand chief position was in Sheshatshiu. Now, with the election, the communities will trade the positions.
Since Poker lives in Natuashish, he said he can’t be re-elected as grand chief. He is not yet sure if he will seek the deputy grand chief position.
Despite calling for an early election, Poker believes the Innu Nation board of directors did a good job during their shortened term.
“I think we did what we set out to do and I think it calls for a new administration to take over.”