Photo rule affects Nisga’a vote

New candidate requirements have reduced the number of people running for seats in the Nisga’a national and local government elections

New candidate requirements have reduced the number of people running for seats in next month’s Nisga’a national and local government elections.

Several key positions are about to be filled by acclamation and in two cases, not enough people have been nominated to fill out village council positions even through this by default process.

One of the new regulations, the requirement to submit a photograph with nomination papers, is being touted by some as one of the main reasons potential candidates didn’t make it onto the ballots.

Ron Nyce is the only person on the ballot for the chief councillor’s position at Gitwinksihlkw.

He said that while he submitted a photograph to fulfill nomination requirements, a number of people hoping to run for elected office throughout the Nisga’a Nation did not.

“Some of those people have been there for four years already and they should have known better,” said Nyce of existing elected members who had planned to run again.

He said the regulations, released in late July, stemmed from Nisga’a national legislation which was passed last summer by some of the very same people who now can’t run because they did not submit a photograph.

In the case of the Gitwinksihlkw chief councillor’s position, three people submitted nomination papers at first.

Eva Clayton, one of three people running for the position of Nisga’a Lisims Government president, said said she is aware of many who ran afoul of the photograph requirement.

“We had the most people ever who wanted to be candidates,” she said.

“I’m aware that a number were disqualified.”

Clayton felt that the current Nisga’a Lisims national government may have done a better job of circulating nomination requirements.

She was also surprised to learn that existing elected people who wanted to run again didn’t submit photos.

“I don’t think it should be grounds for disqualification,” said Clayton.

But she did say that in cases where people might have the same names or names with  “Junior” and “Senior” in their names, that the idea of requiring photos to be used on ballots might be useful.

Greenville council candidate Sylvia Stephens, who is running for a seat for the third time, said she felt bad because of the number of people who couldn’t run, rumoured to be as many as 42.

“There were so many people who would have been good candidates,” said Stephens.

She also felt that failure to submit a photograph should not be a reason to fail to be nominated.

“There are just too many barriers. People should be assessed by their credibility and their leadership skills,” said Stephens.

Stephens, who has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Northern British Columbia and who has volunteered her time as a social services advocate, has also started a Facebook page to carry opinions and views about the election.

Ginger Gosnell-Myers, who is from New Aiyansh and is now living in Vancouver, sees the photograph issue as something that can reflect badly on the Nisga’a.

“It’s so disappointing. Here we are 12 years into the treaty. It’s something we really fought hard for on the basis we can better govern ourselves,” said Gosnell-Myers.

She said there should be no reason why Nisga’a election officials could not have contacted people who did file nomination papers without photos and told them of the new requirement.

“This is something that is so small,” said Gosnell-Myers.

As it is, Gosnell-Myers said the list of qualified candidates was released later than during previous election cycles, reducing the amount of time people can campaign leading up to general voting day on Nov. 7. Advance polling takes place Oct. 31.

Nisga’a national and local government elections have taken place every four years since the Nisga’a Final Agreement came into force in 2000.

The local elections are to fill chief councillor seats and village council seats in the four Nass Valley Nisga’a villages of Gingolx, Laxgalts’ap (Greenville), Gitwinksihlkw and Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh).

There are only two people officially nominated to run for village council in Gitwinksihlkw although there are four seats to be filled.

In Gitlaxt’aamiks, which has seven council seats, only four people are listed as candidates.

Aside from the chief councillor spot in Gitwinksihlkw which is set to be filled by Nyce by acclamation, a national seat, that of chairperson of the Nisga’a Nation, is also to be filled by acclamation. Current chairperson Kevin McKay is the only official candidate.

Three people are running for president of the national Nisga’a Lisims Government. Incumbent Mitchell Stevens faces Eva Clayton and Charles Morven.

Three people are running for treasurer of the Nisga’a Nation, one of whom is incumbent Ed Wright.

Two people from Nisga’a urban locals in Terrace, Vancouver and Prince Rupert are also to be elected.

In Terrace, those two seats are to be filled by acclamation with just Martin Adams and Phyllis Adams being officially nominated.