More tur­moil with PIB

Penticton Herald - - CITY - By JOE FRIES

An ugly scene played out Wed­nes­day at the Pen­tic­ton In­dian Band com­mu­nity hall as a nom­i­na­tion meet­ing to fill five va­can­cies on coun­cil re­vealed a sharp di­vide among mem­bers about the le­git­i­macy of their cur­rent elected lead­ers.

The three-hour meet­ing, at­tended by about 100 peo­ple, never turned vi­o­lent, but was in­ter­rupted fre­quently by shout­ing, ac­cu­sa­tions and at­tempts to bring pro­ceed­ings to a halt.

Ten peo­ple were even­tu­ally nom­i­nated to fill the seats on coun­cil, which were emp­tied by res­ig­na­tions, but third-party elec­toral of­fi­cer Ju­lia Buck ac­knowl­edged the process was con­ducted un­der protest.

Band ad­min­is­tra­tion did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Thurs­day.

The com­mu­nity is di­vided roughly into two groups, both of which claim var­i­ous ver­sions of the band’s cus­tom elec­tion code, past prac­tices and le­gal opin­ions prove they’re right.

One side is call­ing for a fresh elec­tion to re­place Chief Chad Eneas and three coun­cil­lors – all of whom were voted into of­fice last fall and were not in at­ten­dance Wed­nes­day – be­cause they do not con­sti­tute a quo­rum and do not en­joy the con­fi­dence of the com­mu­nity.

“We don’t even have a chief and coun­cil to­day,” Pierre Kruger told the meet­ing. “We have a col­lapsed govern­ment.”

The other side be­lieves coun­cil does in­deed have a quo­rum and a man­date to gov­ern. They want the five va­can­cies filled so coun­cil can get on with the busi­ness of run­ning the com­mu­nity.

“When we elected the coun­cil and the chief last fall, they were elected in by the ma­jor­ity, and the ones that de­cided to stay have been elected by all of us,” said Jeanette Arm­strong, who crit­i­cized op­po­nents for ob­struct­ing two pre­vi­ous meet­ings.

Adding to the in­trigue is the re­place­ment of long-time elec­toral of­fi­cer Va­lerie Bap­tiste with Buck, the third-party con­trac­tor.

Bap­tiste told the meet­ing she was dis­missed by coun­cil os­ten­si­bly due to an anony­mous com­plaint let­ter about her im­par­tial­ity, but she be­lieves she was ac­tu­ally dumped be­cause she told coun­cil a new elec­tion is re­quired be­cause a quo­rum was lost.

She also sug­gested that just as the peo­ple voted her into the job of elec­toral of­fi­cer, it’s up to the peo­ple, not coun­cil, to get rid of her.

“If they vote to re­move me, I step aside,” said Bap­tiste, who later de­clared the meet­ing il­le­gal and left be­fore it ended.

Be­sides the de­bate about chief and coun­cil’s man­date, Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing was also marred by what ap­peared to be a flawed nom­i­na­tion process, which de­vi­ated sig­nif­i­cantly from in­struc­tions that were passed out at the start of the evening.

Un­heeded were re­quire­ments that nom­i­na­tions be made ver­bally and ac­cepted by a show of hands, while the read­ing of the vot­ers’ list, meant to en­sure ac­cu­racy, was im­pos­si­ble to hear as the room had de­scended into ar­gu­ments and side con­ver­sa­tions.

For­mer two-term chief Jonathan Kruger, who re­signed one of the five va­cant coun­cil seats, said af­ter­wards the meet­ing was un­like any­thing he’d ever seen in the com­mu­nity.

And for­mer coun­cil­lors Pierre Kruger and Dolly Kruger in­di­cated af­ter­wards they will be seek­ing a court in­junc­tion to have the nom­i­na­tions de­clared in­valid.

Dolly Kruger has also sent a let­ter on be­half of her­self and 117 oth­ers ask­ing In­dige­nous and Af­fairs and North­ern De­vel­op­ment Canada to in­ter­vene in the mat­ter.

INAC did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment by press dead­line Thurs­day.

JOE FRIES/Pen­tic­ton Her­ald

Va­lerie Bap­tiste, the re­cently de­posed elec­toral of­fi­cer for the Pen­tic­ton In­dian Band, speaks at a com­mu­nity meet­ing Wed­nes­day night.

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