Some community members from Grassy Narrows First Nation say they were denied their right to vote on Election Night 2022.
On Election Night, Senator hopeful for the Kenora riding and First Nation advocate, Tania Cameron, raised the issue that Grassy Narrows First Nation did not have a polling station open on election night, leaving members who decided to not evacuate to Thunder Bay late last month without any options to vote.
Roughly 100 Grassy Narrows members evacuated to Thunder Bay in late May due to severe flooding in their community. The evacuees were mostly elders and those considered the most vulnerable.
Cameron says she spoke with one voter who drove 170 km from Grassy Narrows to Kenora in hopes of casting a ballot, but was told he had to head to Ear Falls instead, over 260 km away. His Voter Information Card shows his polling station should have been Grassy Narrows’ Youth Drop-In centre, but the centre was closed on Election Night at the request of community leadership.
To make matters worse, the Ministry of Transportation says Highway 105 to Ear Falls is still closed due to flooding over the roadway, and the only access to the community is through the Quibell back roads.
In response, a spokesperson for Elections Ontario explains that Elections Ontario did make alternative arrangements for Grassy Narrows evacuees to be able to vote in Thunder Bay, and members were able to vote within the hotel they were staying in.
They say on the afternoon of June 1, a day prior to the election, Elections Ontario was informed by remaining members in Grassy Narrows that there had been a death in the community, and they felt they would be unable to carry out the community’s polling station.
Elections Ontario says members were then asked to be redirected to the nearest polling station by a notice on the door of the closed drop-in centre, which directed members to Ear Falls, roughly two hours away.