A six-day protest came to an end on Monday, June 8th as a group of roughly 20 angry Shuswap Band members returned to their homes, but the protestors are still not happy.
The group arrived at the bands administrative office on Wednesday, June 3rd to protest Chief and Council, in an effort to remove Chief Barb Cote from her position. Many of the protestors are related to Paul Sam, the former chief of the Shuswap Band for over 30 years before he was defeated by Ms. Cote in an election in November.
RCMP Staff Sergeant Marko Shehovac said he and Sergeant Frank Paul from Kelowna met with Ms. Cote and the protesting group several times throughout the day on June 8th, until the sides came to an agreement and the protestors vacated the Shuswap Band Office. At this time, The Pioneer does not have details about the agreement struck between the two groups.
Prior to arriving at the office, the protesting group had circulated a petition demanding Ms. Cotes removal from council, which received 64 signatures from reserve residents, according to band member Robert Martin, a number confirmed by Shuswap Band Council.
According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) media relations officer Valrie Hache, the petition does not carry any legal weight.
Section 78 of the Indian Act states that band councillors can only lose their positions prematurely through death, resignation, or a declaration by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in relation to absences from council or corrupt practices during an election.
As Shuswap First Nation holds its elections under the Indian Act, the Act does not provide for the removal of a chief or councillor through a petition signed by community members, Ms. Hache said.
Tensions came to a boil after Sam Paul, an Elder on the reserve, was given notice by AANDC that the land he was living on was being sold by AANDC without his consent.
We asked Chief and Council and they said that AANDC are the ones that are pushing for the sale, not Chief and Council, which just is not true, Robert Martin claimed.
The land is being sold because, according to Ms. Cote, Mr. Paul does not have a legal lease. Rosa Paul, the lands former owner, left the land to a non-band member when she passed away in 2004, which is against AANDC rules since a non-member cannot own reserve land. Thus, that non-member did not have the authority to lease Mr. Paul the land he has been living on.
Gordon Martin, a member of the protesting group and one of Mr. Pauls nephews, said council had the responsibility to contact Mr. Paul as soon as possible to try to work with him towards protecting his land. Mr. Paul has lived on the land since 1953.
No one ever talked to Sam, Mr. Gordon Martin said. Whos next? If Sams land goes through no one is protected. Council has to stand up for our Elders.
According to Ms. Cote, the Wills and Estates section of AANDC unilaterally decided to put Ms. Pauls three properties up for sale by way of auction. Only Shuswap Band members may bid on Ms. Pauls subdivided land.
The Shuswap Band had no input in, and does not have any control over, the sale of the Rosa Paul lots, as that rests solely with AANDC and as the lots were not included in being governed by the Shuswap Bands Land Code, Ms. Cote said. We are putting our trust in AANDC to ensure that the process and result is fair and equitable to all.
Marcel Laflamme, a lawyer representing Mr. Paul, said he and his client will continue to speak with AANDC and the Shuswap Band Council to try to stop the land sale from happening in the coming months.