Denying right to vote because of COVID-19 is 'discriminatory,' says Dene national chief

·1 min read
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya said denying people their right to vote because they're isolating due to COVID-19  reminds him of when First Nations people couldn't vote in federal elections without losing their treaty rights and Indian status. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC - image credit)
Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya said denying people their right to vote because they're isolating due to COVID-19 reminds him of when First Nations people couldn't vote in federal elections without losing their treaty rights and Indian status. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC - image credit)

Denying voters their right to vote because they're isolating as a result of either having COVID-19, or symptoms of it, is discriminatory, according to a First Nations national chief.

Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya said it reminds him of when First Nations people couldn't vote in federal elections without losing their treaty rights and Indian status.

Many voters learned this week that if they're self-isolating due to COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 on Sept. 20, they're out of options for casting a vote.

It was only in 1960 that First Nations people were given the right to vote, without conditions, in federal elections, Yakeleya recalled.

"Now you're going back to that point in time in history, where because of some form of sickness, you cannot participate," said Yakeleya.

He said election officials should rethink their decision.

"You know, they know how to get a man to the moon and back. My goodness sakes, can't [they] figure out how to get a [voting] box to people who are unable to vote because of COVID[-19]?"

Yakeleya said voting is a constitutional right that gives Canadians the opportunity to make a difference in the country.

He added the timing of the federal election is "questionable."

He said the Dene Nation has postponed its annual general meeting and its election of a grand national chief.

"The protection of our people to be healthy and safe is number one," he said.

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