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FN woman to sue Whitefish Lake Nation #128 was rejected as election candidate due to marital status

EDMONTON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has sent a warning letter to the Whitefish Lake First Nation #128, located near St. Paul, AB, on behalf of Lorna Jackson-Littlewolfe, a Cree mother and grandma who was rejected from being a candidate in the Band elections, being held today, based on her marital status. Ms. Jackson-Littlewolfe is in a common law relationship.

The letter, sent yesterday, warned that unless Ms. Jackson-Littlewolfe is permitted to stand as a candidate in the election, legal action will be taken challenging this unconstitutional discrimination and requesting that a fair election be held.

A lawsuit is pending.

The rejection of Ms. Jackson-Littlewolfe’s candidacy is based on a provision in old Election Regulations, which states that “[n]o person living in a Common Law marriage shall be eligible for nomination.” However, in a 2017 Federal Court decision, those Election Regulations were struck down for being inadequate and unfair, with the Court noting that “preventing nomination for election based on marital status alone would seem to be a discriminatory practice and unconstitutional.”

Despite this fact, Whitefish Lake First Nation is continuing to use the old Election Regulations, and in so doing, is discriminating against potential candidates such as Ms. Jackson-Littlewolfe based on their marital status.

Both the decision made to reject her as a candidate by Whitefish Lake First Nation and relying on the provision of the Election Regulations that refuses to allow candidates if they are in a common law relationship are an infringement of Ms. Jackson-Littlewolfe’s constitutional right as protected by the Charter.

Under the Charter: "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination”, including on the basis of marital status.

“First Nations' individuals have a Charter right to equal treatment by their First Nations’ governments, without discrimination based on their marital status,” states Marty Moore, Staff Lawyer with the Justice Centre and co-counsel for Ms. Jackson-Littlewolfe. “Our client wants this discriminatory practice against electoral candidates on the Whitefish Lake First Nation ended, and wants a fair election. It appears that this matter has to go to Court in order to see fair elections on the Whitefish Lake First Nation.”

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