Thursday, December 08, 2022

Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation chief promises legal action after removal by elders’ council | Nation World News

The elders’ council of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation says it’s removing the band’s chief from office, just one year after she was elected.

But Karen Bird, who became the first female leader from Southend, Sask., in the northern Saskatchewan First Nation and its second ever female chief last April, says she’s taking their decision to court.

The council, made up of elders from each of the reserves that make up Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation — which include parts of Prince Albert and stretches through Saskatchewan’s northeastern regions — says it has the power to remove her, as per the nation’s election code.

A 2016 federal court decision, which shared a relevant portion of the election code, said the council’s main purpose is to provide guidance for the chief and council.

The council was also tasked with assuring Peter Ballantyne leaders abided by the band’s standards of conduct and oath of office, as per the First Nation’s election code.

At a meeting convened on May 10 in Prince Albert, the council said the chief violated both, while “bringing dishonour and dishonesty” to her role as chief.

A letter, which was signed by a majority of the council, alleged Bird engaged in lateral violence at a meeting hosted in Edmonton late last year.

Lateral violence is defined by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation as “displaced violence directed against one’s peers” that is rooted in factors such as colonization, intergenerational trauma and ongoing experiences of racism.

The context of lateral violence — which can include verbal, emotional, spiritual or physical abuse — were not detailed in the council’s letter. An elder contacted by Nation World News who signed the letter declined to comment further.

The letter said the incident was investigated by the elders’ council and discussed with the chief twice on Feb. 8 and again on April 14.

Bird’s actions were also discussed with Peter Ballantyne band councillors on Feb. 8, 9 and 10 this year, the council’s letter said.

The letter said Bird failed to provide the council with a written response to recommendations it made to her in a letter delivered to her on April 1 and she would be removed from her office.

‘Still the elected chief’: Bird

Bird did not respond to CBC requests for comment about the of lateral violence.

A statement published on her Facebook page responding to the elders’ council decision did not address the issue.

“I am still the elected chief of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation,” the post said.

Bird said the council didn’t have a mandate to remove her from office and said those on the council are not decision makers, nor do they represent the people.

The Peter Ballantyne elections code says members of the elders’ council are nominated to represent their community and voted into their positions.

They’re then either voted onto the council or recognized to a council position if they run unopposed.

Elders serve their terms from election until the chief and council is dissolved ahead of an upcoming band general election — typically every three years.

“I fully intend on bringing the Elder’s Council before the courts, as I believe a review by the courts will determine that Elder’s Council acted without authority in deciding to remove me from office,” Bird wrote in the letter published on her Facebook page.

She said the council’s decision was unfounded and breached the First Nation’s election code.

Bird’s letter said per that code, the elders’ council required a petition with a sufficient number of signatures from band members to remove her from office. Such a petition was not provided to her, she said.

“Accordingly I will continue working on the mandate that you, the people, have given me,” Bird’s letter said.

The letter published by the elders’ council however, said Bird was to be removed from her office effective May 10, and the band’s administration was to call a byelection to fill her vacant role.

“The decision of the PBCN Council of Elders is final and binding,” the council’s letter concluded.

As of Friday afternoon, Bird was not listed as Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation’s chief on the community’s governance profile, posted on the Indigenous Services Canada website, though she was still chief as per the community’s profile available through its tribal council.

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