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Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, wearing a headdress, takes part in a drum ceremony before departing a Ottawa hotel to attend a ceremonial meeting at Rideau Hall with Gov. Gen. David Johnston in Ottawa, Friday January 11, 2013. (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, wearing a headdress, takes part in a drum ceremony before departing a Ottawa hotel to attend a ceremonial meeting at Rideau Hall with Gov. Gen. David Johnston in Ottawa, Friday January 11, 2013. (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Complaints over vote as Idle No More hunger striker Spence seeks re-election Add to ...

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has urged the Attawapiskat First Nation to postpone band council elections until all members living off-reserve have a chance to vote.

The group, which represents aboriginal people living off-reserve, says it’s unfair to people who live outside the remote northern Ontario community to have to cast their vote in person.

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Despite the complaint, voting went ahead on Tuesday.

“My concern is how difficult it will be for those living off-reserve who want to vote, but are expected to cast their vote in person,” Betty Ann Lavallee, the congress national chief, said in a statement. “It’s not fair or reasonable that in the 21st century options like mail-in-ballots are not in place.

“I have always believed that the right to vote is a fundamental human right that cannot be denied to members of a community, who for some reason or another are living away from their reserve. This is unfair – it is wrong and it is against the law.”

According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Attawapiskat First Nation has a total registered population of 3,472. Of that, 1,489 people – or about 43 per cent – live off-reserve.

The congress says a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling requires all First Nations holding elections under the Indian Act to give people who live off-reserve the right to vote.

“For everyone’s benefit and to ensure that election results are seen as credible, I ask for a postponement to allow for reasonable accommodation for members living off-reserve who want a say on how their community is run,” Lavallee said.

A spokesman for Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence was not immediately available to comment.

Spence is seeking re-election after a turbulent tenure in which she gained notoriety for subsisting on only fish broth and tea for six weeks as a form of protest during the rise of the Idle No More movement.

The Idle No More cause, which began in December and January, was a protest against the Conservative government’s omnibus Bill C-45.

First Nations groups claimed the bill threatened their treaty rights set out in the Constitution.

But Spence’s protest also drew unfavourable attention to Attawapiskat with the release of a scathing audit of the band’s books that found a missing paper trail for millions of dollars between 2005 and 2011.

The troubled reserve is widely known for the housing crisis that prompted a state of emergency in the winter of 2011 and set off lingering tensions with the federal government.

Flooding and sewer backups this spring again forced Attawapiskat into a state of emergency and forced the First Nation to evacuate its only hospital.

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