Former Peguis chief asks court to set aside First Nation’s 2023 election

A former chief of the most populous First Nation in Manitoba has asked the Federal Court of Canada to set aside the results of a 2023 band election over the cancellation of advance polls and alleged issues with mail-in ballots.

On July 11, the Federal Court will hold a special sitting in Winnipeg to hear arguments in a judicial review of an election held by Peguis First Nation on April 6, 2023, when incumbent Glenn Hudson was defeated by Stan Bird in the race for chief.

Hudson served as chief of Peguis from 2007 to 2015 as well as from 2017 until the 2023 election. He lost to Bird by 440 votes in an election where 2,205 ballots were counted, according to a sworn affidavit by Bird.

Hudson is contesting those results, partly on the basis that 178 ballots cast at an advance poll on March 28, 2023 were nullified and two subsequent advance polls slated for March 30 and 31  were cancelled altogether, according to his application to Federal Court.

The nullified ballots and cancelled polls required the election to be held on a single day, Hudson stated in his application. He also argued an election contractor failed to mail a sufficient number of mail-in ballots to prospective Peguis voters.

“The discrepancy between the amount of votes received for chief between myself and Stan Bird are exaggerated and unrepresentative of the vote totals which would have been tabulated had a fair election process taken place,” Hudson states in a sworn affidavit.

“One can reasonably assume were the election to have remained as scheduled, with three advance polls (March 28, 30, 31) and mail-in ballots, those margins of victory would been necessarily affected.”

A man standing in front of a flooded field.
Glenn Hudson served as chief of Peguis First Nation from 2007 to 2015 and from 2017 to 2003. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Hudson stated in his application and affidavit that Bird, his supporters and other council candidates were responsible for the nullification and cancellation of advance polls through actions that included “intimidation, harassment and outright aggression.”

Hudson stated in his affidavit that Bird and several supporters disrupted a March 20, 2023 public meeting in Peguis about the band’s financial position.

“A major cornerstone of Stan Bird’s campaign was to emphasize the debt of the First Nation, and to attempt to frame [the] present chief and council in a bad light,” Hudson stated in his affidavit. 

Hudson also said in his affidavit that Bird and dozens of supporters prevented a box of advance ballots from leaving a polling station at Peguis Community Hall on March 28, 2023 so that they could be transported to Winnipeg and kept secure until the ballots were counted.

Advance polls cancelled

This led Peguis council to vote the next day to nullify 178 ballots cast at the Peguis advance poll and to cancel subsequent advance polls slated for Sekirk and Winnipeg, Hudson stated in his affidavit, adding that decision was made “on the basis of what we viewed as serious threats violence and intimidation” by Bird and his supporters.

The nullified ballots were burned in public on March 31, 2023, Hudson stated in his affidavit.

In an affidavit of his own, Bird characterized the March 20, 2023 Peguis public meeting as a “passionate but normal band meeting over the finances,” and denied he disrupted the meeting.

Bird said in his affidavit no threats or intimidation took place and accused Hudson of downplaying community concerns about Peguis’s debt.

A man in a car.
Stan Bird has served as chief of Peguis First Nation since 2023. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Bird stated in his affidavit that on the night of the March 28 Peguis advance polls, he did not enter the polling station until after the polls were closed and did not take any steps to affect the ballot box.

Bird stated in his affidavit he “had heard” Peguis council passed a resolution to keep the ballot boxes in the community rather than move them to Winnipeg. 

Lawyers for Hudson and Bird declined offers by CBC News to comment further on the case.

As of May 2024, Peguis First Nation has 11,798 members, 3,703 of whom live on reserve, according to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.