A Wei Wai Kum First Nation member says he has obtained the necessary number of signatures on a petition required to have an investigation launched into the actions of a band councillor.
Chris Drake launched the petition to force an investigation into the actions of Jason Price, accusing him of “taking payments for his own benefit.”
The petition states, “Whereas, the Petitioner, Christopher Drake, asserts that elected Councillor Jason Price has acted in a manner contrary to Sections 54(a), (c), (d), (f), and (g) of the Wei Wai Kum Election Code and contrary to his ethical and fiduciary obligations to the Nation and the Band Council, the Petitioner requests that the process pursuant to Section 55 of the Election Code be commenced for the removal of Councillor Price.”
It continues: “This Petition asserts that Councillor Price breached his oath of office, the Election Code, and his ethical obligations, and otherwise abused his office by taking payments for his own benefit.”
The alleged payments are said to be from a Campbell River contractor who worked on building projects for the First Nation.
Drake’s petition attests that Price received payments totalling $23,900 in the form of six separate cheques dated between February, 2014 and March, 2015. Price held the housing portfolio for the Campbell River First Nation and had the authority to approve projects.
The projects involved the renovation of the Thunderbird Hall and other projects, Drake said.
Drake has copies of returned cheques made payable to Jason Price as listed in the petition.
The allegations stated in the petition have not been proven or substantiated by an arbitrator or other adjudication process.
Drake said he represents a group of band members who have been identified as “vigilantes” by Chief Councillor Bob Pollard.
Campbell River Indian Band Council has an election code that makes them accountable to their community, Drake said.
In the Wei Wai Kum First Nation Election Code, they are required to have a petition with at least 25 per cent of all eligible electors of the Band in support of the petition.
After the petition had been circulating for some time, Chief Pollard put out a letter in the band’s newsletter – which is available on the band’s website – that says, “the petition makes allegations against Jason Price which are completely false and unsubstantiated.
“When these allegations were initially brought to the band’s attention, the band completed its own internal investigation.”
The investigation included interviews with involved parties but Drake said it didn’t include the company co-owner, the person signing the cheques.
Pollard’s letter also said the band sought legal opinions that concluded that the allegations against Price were unfounded. The letter said that making unfounded allegations can expose the subject to defamation and persons engaging in defamation can be sued, Drake said. It also said that if the statements in the petition are not true, then anyone who signs the petition can be sued as well.
“So now, in that letter, how some of our members have read it is, it’s a threat that if you sign the petition you will be sued,” Drake said.
“What our petition is requesting is that an external investigation be completed,” Drake said. “We don’t want our (Campbell River Indian Band) lawyers. We don’t want our people. We don’t want (band manager) Angie (LaFontaine) especially” conducting the investigation.
The procedure Drake has to follow involves gathering signatures from 25 per cent of the band’s voting membership which would be 149 people. As of Aug. 8, 2016, band voting membership is 591. On Monday, Drake had 156 signatures.
“Myself and a group of 27 people, including the people on this petition will not let this be pushed under the rug,” Drake said. “We cannot let this go.”
Drake says that his people “are scared. They’re threatened. They’re oppressed.” In October, Drake and a group of people got together to discuss this issue and they decided to send questions into the band council but got no response.
Drake has also been sitting in on band council meetings to hear how any of their questions were being addressed. He says Pollard stated he would not entertain any type of “vigilante group.”
“So, this is how our people, our respected elders, our youth and the middle people like me – because there’s always something for youth and something for Elders (but) there’s nothing for the middle guy – are (treated), we’re just branded. Which is the first sign of oppression,” Drake said. “We’re under a dictatorship.”
Elder Camble Quatell is one of the petition supporters and said of Pollard that “He doesn’t realize any more that we, as people, have rights just like everybody else.”
On endcorruption.ca, a website set up by Drake, a letter has been posted from two band council members, Marian Atkinson and Dana Roberts stating that they did not agree with Chief Pollard’s letter to band members which states that the band completed an internal investigation and asked that members respect the conclusion of no wrongdoing being found.
“It is our recommendation to the council that an external investigation be conducted,” Atkinson and Roberts’ letter says. “Not all council was advised of the notice sent out to the community that states our membership can be sued. We feel that the letter sent out by the Chief Councillor was a threat to the community and we whole-heartedly disagree.”
The Mirror sought comment from Chief Pollard and Coun. Price but calls and emails were not returned.