Cross Lake First Nation band members will be heading to the polls for the second time in a year after the executive council decided to step aside and hold a general election to put an end to the political stalemate that has affected the band since November of last year.
A Pimicikamak general assembly was held in Cross Lake July 6, and the executive council accepted an offer by Alex Robinson, who was elected as chief in August 2008, to withdraw legal proceedings in federal court following his removal from office in December 2008. The council also decided that the members of the band should be given the chance to choose their leaders in a general election, rather than just a by-election for a new chief.
"It is the honourable thing to do, for the sake of our nation and the healing of our people," said vice-chief Garrison Settee in a press release announcing the council's decision.
Political uncertainty in Cross Lake began in November 2008, when Alex Robinson and his brother Raymond Robinson, were charged with obstruction of justice in connection with a Sept. 12 hit-and-run accident in which a 33-year-old Cross Lake woman was struck by a van. Cross Lake RCMP also arrested 36-year-old Karen Gail Muskego in November following investigation into the accident, charging her with failure to stop at the scene of an accident, obstruction of justice, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault and public mischief.
The charges to Alex Robinson and James Robinson came after a witness claimed the chief and his brother asked her to take the blame for the accident so their sister would not face the possibility of prison time.
Vice-chief Settee became interim leader in early December after accepting an edict from the Cross Lake's women's council, which declared the chief's office "permanently incapacitated" due to the criminal charge Alex Robinson was facing.
On March 2, 2009, senior Crown attorney David Gray said that prosecutors had stayed the obstruction of justice charge against Alex Robinson due to a lack of evidence.
Robinson said the claims against him were part of a smear campaign by people who were unhappy with the community's August 2008 election results.
A nomination meeting was held in the community March 2 and Alex Robinson said at that time that he hoped to file an injunction in federal court to prevent the election process from going ahead.
"The door is now open to seek a mandate from the citizens to move in a positive direction," said the July 7 press release from Cross Lake's executive council. "A posting of a general election will be determined within the coming days by electoral officer."