Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ryan Reynolds and Paul McCartney nominated for chief of Walpole Island First Nation

Ryan Reynolds and Paul McCartney nominated for chief of Walpole Island First Nation

Walpole Island First Nation in southwestern Ontario is looking to have Ryan Reynolds and Paul McCartney removed as candidates for chief after members of the community nominated the two celebrities. 

Under the Indian Act, First Nations can elect a non-Indigenous person as chief, though according to James Jenkins, Walpole Island’s director of operations, it’s quite rare. 

Jenkins said he’s not aware of non-Indigenous people, including celebrities, being elected in the past, but thinks there may have been other instances in Canadian Indigenous communities where a non-member has been on the ballot. 

The exception would be in Walpole Island’s first election back in 1868, he said, when a government bureaucrat filled the position.

The Indian Act, Jenkins said, has virtually no eligibility requirements for the position of chief, which allows anyone to be nominated and elected. 

That’s one of the reasons the people of Walpole Island are pursuing their own constitution so that they don’t have to operate under the Indian Act and can more easily implement eligibility requirements for future chiefs. 

‘Some people are tickled by it’

Walpole Island council members are working to contact Reynolds and McCartney. If they can’t by 4 p.m. on Thursday, both candidates will be removed as nominees, said Jenkins. 

Indigenous Services Canada and the region’s local electoral officer have been contacted to help, he said. 

CBC News has reached out to Reynolds and McCartney but has not heard back. 

Walpole Island First Nation director of operations James Jenkins says electing a non-Indigenous person as chief is rare for First Nation communities. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

“As a public servant to the organization, I withheld any judgment, but I’m trying to make sure that we’re doing our best to provide good service for membership for the election,” Jenkins said. 

As for those in the community, he said opinions are varied. 

“Some people are tickled by it and others probably feel like it may impact the sanctity of the electoral process,” he said. “Many people do find the electoral process a very important component of governance in the First Nation, so we’re trying to do our best to support the membership.” 

Jenkins said he’s not sure if the nominations undermine the process, but thinks if a candidate isn’t aware of their standing, their name should be removed from the process.

The Sept. 19 election currently has 12 chief nominees, including Reynolds and McCartney, and about 80 nominees for council. 

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