Ta’an crisis continues: Harpe

A Ta’an Kwach’an board member who was facing criminal charges continued to sit on the board and influence its decisions for more than a…

A Ta’an Kwach’an board member who was facing criminal charges continued to sit on the board and influence its decisions for more than a month this spring.

That violates the First Nation’s constitution.

But it’s just another example of the Ta’an Kwach’an government ignoring its own rules, said Bonnie Harpe, a Ta’an Kwach’an member and former chair of the band’s board.

On March 8, Ta’an Kwach’an boardmember Doreen Jane Grady was charged with operating a vehicle while impaired and failing to provide a sample of breath or blood without reasonable excuse.

The constitution, under section 8.16, states: “Where a family director, chief or deputy chief is charged with a criminal offence, he or she shall be suspended immediately and will not receive remuneration,” and “If the family director, chief or deputy chief be found innocent or the charges are withdrawn, he or she shall be reinstated immediately.”

Harpe says the government was aware that Grady was charged with an offence.

“I informed Ms. Massie twice (once in writing) that one of her board members had been charged with a criminal offense and should not be participating in board meetings,” said Harpe.

“But in her desperation to hold onto power, Ms. Massie chose to ignore the statements and proceeded with the meetings.”

So Harpe appealed the Ta’an Kwach’an Judicial Council.

And on May 31, 2006, it found in Harpe’s favour.

Here is a list of the judicial council’s findings, dubbed Decision on Complaint Regarding Suspension of a Board Member Following a Criminal Charge:

First, the board should have suspended Grady immediately following the charge.

Second, the board should recover any remuneration paid to Grady for her time on the board between March 8 and April 12.

Third, the board should review all decisions made during that time period that involved Grady’s participation.

Fourth, Grady could be reinstated to the board after April 12, when the Crown proceeded with her criminal charge through summary conviction.

Fifth, any board member is charged with an indictable offence, or one relating to theft, fraud or false pretences, must alert the board.

Sixth, a board member who has reason to believe a fellow member has those kinds of charges pending must alert the board.

And finally, since the board knows Grady was charged with such an offense it is its responsibility to follow through with the rules laid out in the First Nation’s constitution.

The Ta’an Kwach’an’s board is made up of one chief, one deputy chief and nine directors from nine families.

And its constitution states meetings must be attended by the chief, or deputy chief, and any six family directors to have quorum.

Without Grady, the council wouldn’t have had a quorum, said Harpe.

Without quorum, some of its decisions could not have been made, she added.

“This is another example of how they conduct their affairs with respect to applying the constitution,” said Andre Roothman, Harpe’s lawyer.

The ongoing dispute began in April 2004.

Ruth Massie beat Harpe by two votes, but then the third-place candidate, Sam Broeren, admitted he had a criminal record, which prohibited him from running.

Since the results were so close, the election was declared void and Massie was installed as interim chief until another vote could be held.

But no election was called, so Harpe filed a suit in the late spring of 2005 in Yukon Supreme Court, which questioned if Massie’s nomination as interim chief was legitimate.

Then in February, Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale ruled that it was, but also stated the First Nation should hold an election as soon as possible.

“The election for chief and deputy chief must proceed as soon as possible,” wrote Veale.

Now, five months after the ruling there is still no election in sight, said Harpe.

Massie could not be reached for comment.