AOK protesters dispute eviction from community

Protesters gather outside the Aundeck Omni Kaning band office. photos by Michael Erskine

AUNDECK OMNI KANING— Protestors gathered outside the administration offices of the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation on Tuesday, September 6 with signs challenging what they allege is an eviction being carried out by the band in contravention of band procedures and alleging that a band meeting was changed to avoid having to address the issue. The band maintains that all procedures have been properly followed, that those members of the council involved directly in the issue have in fact declared a conflict and that the protest organizer, Jenn Ramsdin, is on the agenda for the next band meeting.

Rally organizer Ms. Ramsdin, an Aundeck Omni Kaning band member, alleged that the band council meeting, usually held on the first Monday of the month, had been closed after she requested the opportunity to make a presentation to council. The band maintains that the Monday meeting was a strategic planning meeting that had been in the works for a number of weeks.

While the protestors (which included band councillor Mike Abotossaway) gathered outside the administration offices, they discovered that members of the band council were conducting a meeting at the new multi-use and recreation centre (MURC) down the road. That meeting later proved to be a strategic planning meeting unrelated to the issue being addressed by the protestors.

The protestors marched to the MURC building where they placed their signs against the windows of the meeting room while chanting and pounding on the window. Organizers of the rally urged the protestors to cease pounding on the windows, exhorting to them that “this is a peaceful protest.” The protestors retorted that they were trying to attract the attention of the meeting, but immediately desisted in pounding on the windows.

Members of the UCCM Tribal Police and an OPP officer attended the scene as the protest continued.

“They told me that they were simply there to observe, but then they warned me that I could be charged if any criminal activity took place,” said Ms. Ramsdin, who said that she and the protestors were engaged in a peaceful protest. In the event, no charges were laid and the protest continued without incident.

A September 6 communication to the band members noted that “when the members of council were elected into office by you, we agreed to abide by our Leadership Code and to respect the trust that you placed in us and to follow any applicable governance policies.”

The missive went on to note that “from time to time there will be matters that come up in our community that are of a private legal nature, that is, private legal issues between parties that must be or sometimes are best resolved by the parties themselves or by the due process of the courts. Having said this, we are always open and willing to help community members to resolve matters in any way we can when they request assistance.”

The communique went on to note that “chief and council have always been open to hearing from those directly involved in this current legal matter in terms of how we might be of some help.” As of Monday press time, the individual on whose behalf the protest was being conducted had not appointed Ms. Ramsdin as a representative.

The communique, which does not directly address the specifics of the allegations or issue being protested, notes that it is not the job of band council to intervene in family or criminal matters, stating “this is the job of the courts and not the job of council.”

The letter goes on to note that the band has made available its professional team of mental health workers, social support workers and other health care professionals to help “as we would for anyone going through a difficult time.”

The communique concludes with a request to respect the family’s privacy “as they go through a difficult time.”

A release handed out during the protest by Ms. Ramsdin laid out a timeline of events in which the family of a band councillor was reported to have undergone a dispute, naming that councillor and alleging that band policies in regard to evictions from the reserve were not followed. The party being evicted is a member of the family but is not a band member and had not filed a non-resident application.