Former Sheguiandah First Nation chief blocks band office

A large hand-painted plywood sign announced the blockade of the band office, while a pickup truck and small car closed off the entrances to the building. photo by Michael Erskine

Orville Aguonie protests alleged conflicts of community electoral personnel

SHEGUIANDAH—Former Sheguiandah chief (and current nominee in the upcoming November 22 election) Orville Aguonie blockaded the Sheguiandah First Nation band offices on Wednesday, October 4, using a half-ton truck and a car to block the doors into the building.

Sitting in a gazebo behind the band office, Mr. Aguonie said that he had taken the action “due to a major conflict of interest by current Chief Andrew Aguonie and one of his staff (Cindy Behm).”

Mr. Aguonie claimed that Chief Aguonie and two of the band councillors had chosen Ms. Behm (the band’s lands administrator) to be the electoral returning officer for the November 22 election.

“Not only does Cindy Behm’s appointment constitute a major conflict of interest, due to the employee/employer relationship that exists, but she also has a vested interest in the outcome of the election,” alleged Mr. Aguonie, speaking publically outside the band offices. “Ms. Behm’s position with Sheguiandah First Nation is not funded by any government agencies and her continued employment hinges on who is elected chief and council.”

A small car blocks an entrance to the Sheguiandah First Nation band offices during a protest blockade.

Although Mr. Aguonie vowed to keep up his blockade until the appointment of the electoral officer was rescinded “by Andrew Aguonie and Indigenous Affairs,” he closed down his blockade around 7 pm Wednesday evening.

UCCM Anishinaabe Police Service officers were on hand “to keep the peace” during the protest action, but did not intervene. Band nominations that were supposed to take place at the band office on Wednesday were moved to the Sheguiandah Health Centre.

Chief Aguonie was in Toronto taking part in an Ontario Works conference during the blockade.

“I was talking to Rodney (Nahwegahbow) from the UCCM Police and he told me it was just supposed to be a one-day protest,” said Chief Aguonie when he returned. “It was peaceful and wrapped up by 7 pm.”

Chief Aguonie was adamant that the band council did not intend to rescind Ms. Behm’s appointment. “No, no,” he said. “Council is still agreeing to keep her in place. Anyone who is not in agreement can appeal the election, of course.”

Chief Aguonie said operations at the band are continuing as normal and there were no disruptions in service anticipated. “We are continuing to move forward as a community,” he said.