To the Expositor:
On behalf of the Majority of the Elected Councillors of Sheguiandah (MECS), we would like to thank those who live both on and off the Island for their continued interest and support in our struggles to represent our community as a unified voice. After 50 days of continuous protest against the role of our current leadership we chose to disassemble our camp and focus on getting our administration back on track.
The protest began when the chief (Orville Aguonie) refused to meet with his people and engage in open dialogue in resolving the community’s concerns. Despite not having held a regular council meeting since the start of the protest, we have accomplished a great deal. We came together as a diverse group of people and left as a community determined to resolve matters in a peaceful and democratic manner.
Our central issue remains that the chief is acting without lawful authority. In response, we have taken action by seeking assistance from the federal government to facilitate regular council meetings. We are seeking to have open, accountable, and a transparent Band structure in place, governed by the community’s elected representatives. Under our governance structure, as set out in the Indian Act, the chief must hold council meetings and this has not occurred.
To complicate matters, the chief insists he does not need the approval of council, since he is acting as CEO of the Band’s administration. We feel that he is acting outside of the scope of his role as chief, as set out in the Indian Act, and we fear that he could be personally liable. His appointment as CEO to the Band’s administration was done by a previous council, where he seconded his own motion, making it invalid. Furthermore, motions of this nature must be passed by each successful council.
The funding arrangement entered into with the provincial government to provide social assistance has been brought to the minister’s attention. We feel that the chief acted improperly on administrative matters and that political interference in the operation of this type of provincial program is prohibited. MECS is working to have this provincial program removed from the hands of this Chief’s administration.
Another community complaint is on how the housing department is making decisions to evict band members and their families from their homes, without proper explanation, any formal legal process, and without seeking the approval of council. The federal government is intervening to ensure that these evictions are not enforced until council meetings resume since the notices sent to members of Sheguiandah were done without lawful authority.
An additional concern voiced by the community relates to employment at the Band office. MECS is committed to appointing a CEO who is independent of the community, to do a review of the hiring and firing policies of the Band’s administration in order to get things back on track in a fair and transparent way. MECS is committed to establishing a strong government that provides insightful advice, acts impartially, and is independent from their elected leaders. This government must be accountable to their council but not beholden to them.
Our greatest achievement is getting our community meetings back on track. The camp along Highway 6 served the purpose as a meeting ground for community members and guests to come together and share ideas and experiences and plan a future for our community. This is where a path was carved out to lead us forward in our vision to take responsibility for our youth and elders.
Moving forward from today towards the future must involve the community on this path to recovery. We plan to hold a series of Community Roundtable meetings at Green Acres (Highway 6), Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm and will continue even after council meetings resume. At each meeting, two topics will be discussed. Topics are selected by the community and range from ‘improving our housing situation ourselves’ to ‘exploring economic development initiatives.’ Our goal is to devise a community plan that will benefit our community for the next seven generations.
These meetings will be open to everyone and minutes will be recorded. When council meetings resume, these meetings will serve to inform council of your opinions, your vision, and your concepts. These meetings will serve as an outlet for those who were neglected by the chief and his administration, by listening and actively engaging you. Non-members are welcome to attend and encouraged to share their perspective and viewpoint.
We thank the countless people who stopped by and voiced their support. We appreciate the work already undertaken by the provincial and federal Crown, for ensuring that the Band’s programs are to be properly administered in a fair and just manner, overseen by their elected council. We also thank our friends and families who have been behind us 100 percent since the beginning of this process.
We began this protest as a group of protestors but we leave as the Anishinabek of Sheguiandah, united behind the idea that MECS, who represent the majority of council can get things back on track, provided that we, as their MECS, continue listen to their concerns and represent them within their government. We will work towards reforming our government to prevent a situation like this from occurring again in future. The chief does not rule the community, the people do. We are only as strong as the members who provide us with their continued support.
Councillor Derek Assiniwe
Councillor Kevin Mishibinijima
The Majority of Elected Councillors of Sheguiandah