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Tsawwassen First Nation awaits outcome in vote challenge

Chief Bryce Williams, 23, of the Tsawwassen First Nation is photographed on the Tsawwassen First Nation reserve in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Sept. 7, 2012. He replaces Kim Baird, who held the title for 13 years.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

A high-powered panel, headed by B.C.'s conflict-of-interest commissioner Paul Fraser, has reserved decision on a challenge to the narrow, upset victory by Bryce Williams over the Tsawwassen First Nation's long-time chief, Kim Baird.

The complaint, based on an election notice that confused the days of the week, was filed by Mike Baird, Ms. Baird's brother, and Christina Shellard, her niece.

However, Ms. Baird, who continues to work for the TFN as its strategic initiatives director, said Monday that she was not behind the election challenge. "I didn't start it. I didn't initiate it." She declined further comment.

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The controversy surrounds a pre-election notice sent to TFN households that announced voting day as "Thursday, Sept. 5," when in fact the actual vote was on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Ms. Shellard said the error caused her to miss casting her ballot.

"Every Tsawwassen member is entitled to a clear and fair voting process, and this mistake did not allow for every member to vote, including myself," she said, in a statement.

Mr. Williams, 23, edged Ms. Baird 78 to 69 in the contest for chief, which had a 58-per-cent turnout of eligible TFN voters. The result surprised many outsiders, given Ms. Baird's high profile as driver of the province's first urban native treaty and the reserve's ambitious development plans.

Mr. Baird, who ran unsuccessfully for one of 12 legislative seats on the TFN's governing body, said the incorrect day of the week could have had an impact on the result. "That compelled us to appeal the results to the Tsawwassen First Nation Judicial Council."

The Judicial Council held a full-day, public hearing Saturday on the complaint, its first activity since the council was established by the TFN in 2009.

The three-member panel struck to decide the matter included Mr. Fraser, University of B.C. law professor Bruce MacDougall and Leif Nordahl, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

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A ruling is expected within a week or two.

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