Elections Canada says they’ve finished their investigation into why 1,600 northwestern Ontario residents weren’t able to vote on election night.

On election night, 1,600 eligible voters from Pikangikum First Nation, Cat Lake First Nation and Poplar Hill First Nation were not able to vote as all three communities did not host any polling stations.

Elections Canada apologized for their error in early November, saying they would continue to investigate what happened to ensure it doesn’t happen again. They released their report into the 2021 election, the 44th in Canada, on January 31.

Elections Canada says the returning officer made plans to provide 43 First Nation polling locations on election day in the region, as well as three advance polling locations. Elections Canada had planned to host an on-site election day poll in all three affected communities, but no on-site advance polls.

However, in early September, Elections Canada says they were told that most community members would be unable to vote at election day polls on September 20. Elections Canada did not say who provided them with this information.

Due to this, they say the returning officer then told community members to vote by mail, if they couldn’t vote on election day. The returning officer then took the decision, which was authorized by Elections Canada, to run a one-day advance poll in all three communities on September 13.

The one-day polls on September 13 were approved by local leadership in all three communities, and a decision to cancel voting services on September 20 was made at the local level.

However, due to the timing of the decision, Elections Canada could not update their Voter Information Cards on time, as they were already mailed out, and several electors were unaware that their in-person poll had been moved to September 13, causing the confusion.

“In this case, better communication with the communities early on could have prevented the lack of polling stations on election day,” said Elections Canada’s report.

“Services could have been maintained on election day, or electors could have been better informed of their voting options. Moving forward, Elections Canada is reviewing the way in which it engages with and serves Indigenous electors in order to reduce barriers to participation.”

As well, voter cards for those in a number of northern Ontario First Nation community members had incorrect information about the location of polling stations.

Elections Canada says it can be difficult sorting through the plethora of information in the National Register of Electors, which are used to generate Voter Information Cards, and residents were associated with different communities, leading them to being geocoded to different polling areas.

Elections Canada also notes they received requests for as many as 5 million special ballot voting kits, over 100 times more than the previous election, due to more Canadians wishing to vote from home due to lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions.

They also received over 9,400 complaints, due to accessibility, voter experience, long lines and interactions with poll workers, voting by special ballots and other ways to vote.

Elections Canada also reported several violent incidents, including harassment and vandalism. They say these issues happen each year, but the COVID-19 pandemic likely escalated the incidents. They say most incidents involved people refusing to wear a mask, or protesting mask mandates or vaccination policies. 78 of these incidents required police intervention.

The cost of the 44th general election, which once again resulted in a minority Liberal government, is estimated to be $630 million, which we’ll be paying for until 2024.