The Liard First Nation’s special community meeting was successful in creating an election committee, before abruptly ending in shouting matches.
On Feb. 4 LFN members met in Lower Post, B.C. to create an election committee to oversee a vote that was supposed to have taken place in December 2016.
But as members were discussing setting an election date, things went awry.
According to Myron Barr, a lawyer for the LFN citizens suing Chief Daniel Morris and the First Nation for failing to hold the election on time, it’s Morris himself who started things.
As the meeting got underway, Barr told the audience he disagreed with LFN’s lawyer’s interpretation of the LFN election code.
That’s when things went downhill.
“(Morris) pointed to me and said words to the effect ‘that white man can’t dictate to us … I want him out of here now,’” Barr wrote in a letter to Canada’s federal court.
A couple of people turned around, he wrote, and started yelling at him.
“The words and actions of Chief Morris were clearly intended to incite and expose me to hatred and contempt,” Barr said.
A federal court judge had ordered the First Nation to file a report on the community meeting.
In a letter to the court, Morris gives another version of what happened.
He claims that Barr never asked to be allowed to attend the meeting and that he was disruptive when storming to the front of the meeting to confront LFN’s lawyer, Scott Smith.
“Mr. Barr’s actions caused a tremendous commotion, which in turn caused tensions to boil over so much that the facilitator determined that he needed to immediately cancel the rest of the meeting,” Morris wrote.
But all members in attendance had known since the start that Barr was present, LFN member George Morgan told the News.
“And Morris had his own lawyer there, who is not a member of the Liard First Nation,” he said.
Morgan plans to run against Morris in the upcoming election and has been his most vocal opponent.
Several people recorded the meeting, Morgan said, and many are prepared to file affidavits to support Barr’s claims.
Still no election date
With the meeting ending early, there remains no set date for a new election.
And the lawyer for LFN claims no date can be set until the First Nation receives funding for the election.
But funding is already available to the First Nation, the federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) told the court in a written reply.
There’s $25,000 set aside for the election that the First Nation can get through Ganhada Management Group, wrote Jonathan Gorton, INAC’s lawyer.
Ganhada is the third-party manager that’s been delivering core services to LFN members for the past three years.
The First Nation was told as early as August 2016 that the funding was available, INAC said.
“If further confirmation of INAC’s commitment to fund an election is required, we are at a loss to understand why LFN could not have sought it earlier,” Gorton wrote.
The election committee also has the power to set the election by itself, Barr wrote to the court.
Nobody from the First Nation was available to answer questions about the meeting.
“I would, however, caution you against relying on Mr. Morgan’s version of the events,” Smith wrote to the News, without elaborating further.
The News asked Smith whether chief and council would provide a breakdown of how the $40,000 INAC gave for the community meeting was used, whether audio recordings of the meeting would be made public, whether the First Nation would file affidavits to support Morris’s claims that Barr disrupted the meeting, whether Smith was a Kaska member himself, and why the First Nation claims it had no money for the election. Smith declined to respond.
A federal judge has requested that both parties provide an update by March 3.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org