Skookum back in court

The Supreme Court of Yukon is being asked to weigh in on whether Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eddie Skookum should, lawfully, remain in office.

The Supreme Court of Yukon is being asked to weigh in on whether Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eddie Skookum should, lawfully, remain in office.

Lorraine O’Brien, a citizen of the First Nation, has filed the court petition.

She has been the main voice calling for Skookum’s resignation and removal as chief after he pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless endangerment of life following an incident in July 2010, where he was arrested driving under the influence and his 21-year-old common law wife was found beaten and bloody at a motel in Haines, Alaska.

The petition argues this, and an incident of public drunkenness and domestic violence in Las Vegas, Nevada, four months earlier, proves Skookum breached the First Nation’s constitution, which states leaders must abstain from alcohol and drugs, or be actively seeking treatment for substance abuse.

The First Nation’s constitution also states leaders and citizens alike must live their lives on “a foundation of sobriety, honesty, unselfishness…” and that they have “respect for each individual person, for the family and for our people as a collective,” the petition says.

The First Nation’s constitution also says, “All powers and authority are to be exercised so as to protect, secure and enhance the spiritual, physical, mental, emotional and social well being of all the citizens of Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, including future generations … and respect the needs and interests of Citizens of other First Nations,” the petition says.

O’Brien’s earlier opposition to Skookum retaining his office forced an emergency meeting of the First Nation in November 2010.

It ended with the elders council voting to keep Skookum as chief.

But there was no emergency to justify the meeting, as the First Nation was working well while Skookum was held in Alaskan custody, the petition says.

The emergency meeting was also invalid because it did not comply with the mandatory amount of notice written in the First Nation’s constitution, the petition added.

And finally, the meeting was not lawful, according to the First Nation’s constitution, because it gave the elders council the sole responsibility of the decision, ignoring other requirements, like a petition of at least 40 adult citizens, which O’Brien had.

“The meeting itself was not conducted in a manner which permitted the assembly and/or the governing bodies of LSCFN, including the elders council, to make an independent and informed decision on the issue of the chief’s fitness for office and potential removal from office,” the petition says. “In all of the circumstances, the decision of the elders council and any other governing body at the said emergency meeting cannot stand.”

O’Brien has also exhausted other options before going to the court, as requested under the First Nation’s constitution, the petition says, mentioning the aboriginal government has not had any other contact with her about her original appeal since its response in February, 2011, that said it was seeking a legal opinion and would contact her accordingly.

The right of a citizen to appeal is being ignored because the “delay is occasioned by the chief, the council and the elders council through the artificial device of ‘seeking a legal opinion,’” the petition says.

Lawyers for the First Nation and O’Brien are scheduled to be in court on December 13.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com

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