On June 4, a peaceful 12-day blockade of the Mcleod Lake Indian Band office ended with five arrests including one elder and one band member with schizophrenia, with the RCMP executing arrest warrants for the people they believed to be responsible for the blockade.
In fact, they selectively arrested people at the blockade, which best guess suggests that they were targeting people they thought to be the ring leaders and refused to arrest other band members present.
All told we have 16 band members charged with contempt of court for failing to comply with an injunction obtained by the MLIB Chief and Council on May 24. The group charged includes six elders, three of whom are the oldest surviving Tsekehne people from the MLIB. The group is supported by a majority of the band's elders, members and hereditary leaders who wish to restore transparency, accountability and traditional values and customs to the governance of the Tsekehne Territory.
The issues that provoked the protest are many. For example, 13 band members received eviction notices directing them to vacate the subpar housing that they have lived in all their lives. These low income members include four elders, one mentally ill and a band member with Down syndrome. The chief and council have signed numerous far-reaching, high-impact agreements with industry without proper consultation or ratification, totally infringing on the rights of the membership.
One agreement in particular is the Mt. Milligan project. Immediately after signing the agreement ,the chief and council put itself in a conflict of interest by changing their own honorarium policy so that they could be paid directly from the deals that they sign. We suspect this policy change came as a direct result of the Supreme Court denying the council's attempt to vary the Treaty 8 trust which would have put future generations at risk.
Recently the chief and council approved its own pay raise that sees Derek Orr earning over $100,000 per year tax free with a $75,000 travel budget and each councillor receives $5000 per month plus expenses while the band is spending $2 million on administration in a community of around 100 people and the majority of them are far below the poverty line.
The RCMP and INAC have been aware of the issues at MLIB for over a year, but have shown little interest in interfering in what they have referred to as an internal band dispute, however the RCMP were quick to act in settling this dispute where Mt. Milligan and Enbridge had their names tied to controversy in the media.
There is no transparency and zero accountability at MLIB and no recourse for the people to protect their rights or those of future generations, which is exactly why a blockade had to happen as a last resort and cry for help.