Sheguiandah councillor spikes fellow councillor’s volley

To the Expositor:

To those of you who are not members of our community, you must read the previous letters to the editor from Councillor Jake Ago neh with a great deal of confusion (‘Sheguiandah First Nation councillor rails against the actions of rebels,’ October 23, page 5). He has claimed that Councillor Derek Assiniwe and I are at the root of all our community’s problems. In his letter dated October 23, 2013 he states that we are a community governed by two “gangs”: the “Gimme Gang” who wants something for nothing and the “Poor Ole Me” gang, the whiners. These are hurtful words coming from a traditional healer. He continues to criticize our community members by insulting them and belittling their roles in the community. “Token elders?” Our elders are our leaders, the ones we look to for guidance, people who have gained our respect. These people knew something was wrong so they wanted to shed light on our situation.

Mr. Ago neh’s letter also attacks other First Nations elders who did indeed travel long distances to support us. To call these visitors “pathetic” and the “so-called elders” foolish is a pretty rude statement coming from a healer. I am rather proud of the “foolish” protest. We worked hard to make sure it was peaceful and honest. Either Mr. Assiniwe or I was in attendance at all times to help maintain order. No one was intoxicated under our watch since there were children around and we did have a sacred fire. We appreciated everyone who stood by us and those who seemed to act in an inappropriate manner were kindly asked to go home.

Chief Orville Aguonie and Jake Ago neh have never bothered to take the time to wonder why members of our community sat beside Highway 6 for two months. They have never taken it upon themselves to reflect on their own actions. Instead they have criticized those who question their decisions openly, publicly and without hesitation. Unfortunately for them, they seem to have overlooked the facts.

The chief and Councillor Ago neh have hired their own family members, have been found by a labour board to have wrongfully dismissed those that chose not to follow their regime. They even tried to evict members of our community, without a court order, following a housing policy that has never been approved by chief and council and that apparently changes daily. Councillor Ago neh also mentions in his letter to the editor that the band manager was “appointed by all three councillors at a duly convened meeting.” Can he show us the minutes for that meeting? If I recall correctly, I was against that because it was a conflict of interest as the acting band manager is the chief’s wife.

Then there is the audit. We did not sign the audit because Mr. Assiniwe and I had outstanding questions regarding the accounting of the money. The audit presented to us was over six months late, with hundreds of thousands of dollars already held up because of its lateness. If we did sign it without fully understanding and without asking questions about it, we would be personally liable to the community. The chief does not seem to understand the meaning of accountability. He wanted us to sign off on the audit without being able to really read and understand it. If we were given receipts or other paperwork to support some of the spending, things might have been different. This isn’t the only time in my two years as councillor that the chief has attempted to pass resolutions without us being able to read them. If we do not know what is in the resolution, how can we pass it? This, apparently, is standard procedure from our chief?

If the chief actually chaired council meetings as he is supposed to, we would have an accountable government. Instead, he tried to insist I was not a councillor. He has voted at meetings, which is not permitted unless there is a tie amongst the three councillors. He does not allow for any new agenda items be put forward that he does not agree with. To those who are not members of our community, you can see how anti-democratic these actions are.

What is at the heart of our problem is the Indian Act government imposed on our community by the federal government. There are alternatives. I have experienced the dysfunction brought on by the federal system first hand. When talks broke down, they provided no mediation assistance. They told us to wait 15 months for the next election. We tried to work with the federal government at council meetings only to be attacked by wild allegations by the chief and Councillor Ago neh for hours at a time.

Now that the election is quickly approaching, people have two choices: support the same administration that provides assistance to those who comply and harm those that criticize or support candidates who want to put the community first and put the past behind them. Mr. Jake Ago neh talks a lot about respect and how it is earned. This is very true. But after all of the name calling, hurtful, hateful letters to the media about our neighbours, rude insults to other First Nations, my respect for Mr. Ago neh is sadly all but gone. We need to move on as a community. We need to end this deadlock. The choice is clear on November 23, 2013. Keep the same family in power or work together as a collection of families and begin to heal.

Kevin Mishibinijima, councillor
Sheguiandah First Nation