The Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society says it will work with the newly elected chief of the Liard First Nation, Daniel Morris.
Morris won his seat on Monday night by 23 votes over runner-up George Morgan.
Morris was chief once before. In 2004, he was removed from office in disgrace following a conviction for brutally beating his estranged wife and threatening her and another man with a loaded rifle.
On Wednesday, the women’s association, which has a mandate to help end violence against women in the Kaska community, said it would work with Morris now that he is chief again because that’s what the community would want.
“The members of the society express a sincere desire to work with the newly elected chief and council of both Liard First Nation and Daylu Dena Council to help restore a healthy community,” said Ann Maje Raider, the society’s executive director.
“The society notes that the re-election of Chief Morris does not legitimize or condone acts of violence on his part or on the part of society in general,” the release said.
Maje Raider was unavailable for comment this week, but society board member Liz Porter said the society feels that Morris has changed.
“He’s done a lot of work on himself. Obviously that’s what the community, the voters, have noticed and that’s what the community wants.
“The community obviously feels that he’s paid his dues. Our community is so divided and we need to pull them back together,” Porter said.
No one from the society has yet spoken with Morris, Porter said. Over the past two weeks, Morris has not returned any of the News’ repeated calls for comment on this and numerous other stories relating to the election and his history.
Hillary Aitken, the program director for the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, said her organization stands in solidarity with the statement issued by LAWS and would make no further comment on the issue.
White Ribbon Yukon, a men’s organization that works to engage other men in ending violence against women, issued a statement Friday morning saying the organization “denounces the violent and brutal assault committed by Daniel Morris … and all acts of violence against women in our communities.”
“We call on Chief Morris to never again commit, condone or remain silent about acts of violence against women or children,” said White Ribbon president Josh Regnier in the release. He further asked that Morris “work with women’s organizations and men and boys to build greater awareness and understanding about violence prevention and healthy relationships.”
Former chief Liard McMillan, who didn’t run in this election, said he thinks it’s hypocritical of LAWS to be supportive of Morris when they were so quick to attack him in a feud between his government and the society that lasted for years.
“They had no problem attacking me, calling me a dictator and questioning my financial transparency, but now they’re willing to work with a wife beater?” McMillan said.
Morris is accused of taking nearly $250,000 in loans and personal cheques over and above his salary, according to a report commissioned by the First Nation. When McMillan became chief he asked Aboriginal Affairs to do a forensic audit into the matter and lugged a dozen bankers boxes of financial information to the RCMP offices in Whitehorse.
The force initially said it would support a forensic audit, but Aboriginal Affairs refused, saying it couldn’t be proven it was federal money Morris took.
Now McMillan said he’s worried that, with Morris back in power, he may attempt to cover up any remaining evidence of any wrongful acts.
“I am quite concerned Morris may attempt to destroy the evidence from the RCMP. Because of that concern, prior to the election I removed several boxes from the LFN offices,” McMillan said.
He’s now considering making another formal complaint to the RCMP or possibly going to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Earlier this year, band members from the Chemawawin First Nation in northern Manitoba got the federation to look into missing trust fund money, and found that their chief and council appear to have made off with almost $400,000.
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