Squamish Nation Addresses Challenge to Election & Referendum Law and Governance

  • The Election and Referendum Law and governance of the Squamish Nation is being challenged by individuals attempting to disrupt the peace and unity of the Nation.
  • Council was legitimately and democratically chosen in the September 26, 2021 election.
  • Any challenge to the recent election results or attempt to change the governance structure is outside of Squamish Nation law and is illegal.
  • Any attempt by individuals to hold nominations and election for new Chair and Council, is illegal and nonbinding.
  • Council will not support, assist, or sanction an illegal election, nor will Council respect the results.
  • To protect the Squamish Nation and our law, Council is seriously exploring all legal actions regarding the challenge to the Election and Referendum Law and governance of the Squamish Nation. 

Dear Squamish Nation Members,

Re: Challenge to Election and Referendum Law and Governance of the Squamish Nation

The Council of the Squamish Nation would like to directly address the actions of a group of individuals who are working to disrupt the peace and unity of the Squamish Nation. These individuals are challenging our recent election and are proposing another one, to return to 16 Councillors. To be clear, this action is not an election for a new Chair and Council and is illegal under Squamish Nation law.

We are the legitimate Council of the Squamish Nation, democratically elected by the People on September 26, 2021. The current Election and Referendum Law was adopted on December 6, 2018, after consultation and a referendum. Our People voted to move to this smaller, but still elected, Council. Under this law, there is no legal power to recognize the actions of these individuals. Our Council cannot support, sanction, nor will we respect the outcome of this so-called election.

The Council is required to follow a process that was chosen by our People in 2018. Any Member who follows the proper process can call a referendum and have Members vote on changes to the election law. Through this process, these individuals could hold a referendum to return to the old system of governance or put a new system in place. This group of individuals has blatantly refused to follow our law. Instead, they choose to mislead and misinform our People by suggesting they have a right to act on the People’s behalf and choose their own way forward.

Council will not stand for this. We will do everything in our power to protect the integrity of the Nation’s democratically chosen electoral process and system of governance. Council is seriously exploring all the Nation’s legal options that could be taken to stop these individuals from brazenly ignoring our Nation’s law.

The Nation and Council will not be providing this group of individuals with financial or in-kind support to assist them with conducting a fraudulent election. They will not be allowed access to Nation buildings or administration to attempt this illegal election. We will continue to maintain the smooth operation of the Nation’s administration and businesses. Interference in council meetings, disruption of staff and our facilities and businesses will not be tolerated.

As a Council, we are directed to respect the will of our People. The actions of these individuals are harmful to the democratic process and the direction Members have chosen. It is our duty to protect the process and defend your right to choose, against individuals working outside of our law, for their own personal gain.

This letter is also available as a PDF.

Chet kw’enmantúmiwit.
(We thank you for your attention to this matter.)

Squamish Nation Council

Elected Councillors

Sxwchálten Iy X̱elsílem

Khelsilem
Council Chairperson

Syexwáliya

Ann Whonnock
Spokesperson & General Councillor

Sxwíxwtn

Wilson Williams
Spokesperson & General Councillor

Sempulyan

Stewart Gonzales
General Councillor

Sumkwaht

Shayla Jacobs
North Shore Councillor

Tiyáltelut

Kristen Rivers
Regional Councillor

Joyce Williams

Squamish Valley Councillor

Xwélxwelacha Siyam

Chief Richard Williams
General Councillor

Elected Band Manager

Tsiyaliya

Bianca Cameron
Band Manager

  • In 1923, 76 eligible voters of various Squamish Indian Bands petitioned to the Department of Indian Affairs to use Section 17 of the Indian Act to amalgamate all Squamish Indian Bands into the single Squamish Nation.
  • The Federal Government approved the amalgamation of the Squamish Nation in 1923.
  • Between 1923 and 1981, the Council slowly evolved from being a Council of Chiefs who held positions on the Council for life to a Council with elected Council members.
  • In 1976, Squamish Members voted to change to a fully elected Council system and away from a mixture of Chiefs & Councillors who were un-elected.
  • In 1981, Squamish Members formally approved rules for electing an elected council at a general meeting.
  • From 1981 to 2017, Squamish elections were administered under the 1981 Election Regulations.
  • In 2001, a referendum was held according to our custom to amend the Band Manager role from 2 years to 4 years.
  • A similar referendum concerning the future of Squamish Nation’s Council and Band Manager was held in December 2018, after multiple notices, meetings, and information package were sent out to the Membership.
  • There were 774 ballots cast in the 2018 referendum.
  • The result was 56 percent in favour of an eight-person Council — 430 voted in favour of eight; 335 voted in favour of a 16-member council.
  • The new election rules were also approved, with 459 voters voting “yes,” while 293 voted “no” — a 59 percent approval.
  • On the question, “Do you want to elect the band manager?” Sixty-nine per cent voted in favour, with 532 voting yes and 231 voting against.
  • To the question, “Do you want to elect the chair of council?” 546 voted “yes” and 212 voted “no”, (71% approval).
  • By a vote of 478 to 284, voters also supported designated Councillors for three regions. This will mean one Councillor representing the Squamish Valley, one for the North Shore and one elected by Members living away from these communities.
  • On September 26, 2021, the current Council, under the new governance model was elected.