A First Nations woman says she’s filing a human rights complaint after being kicked out of Sandy Lake First Nation, a fly-in only community in northern Ontario.
Angele Kamalatisit is not from Sandy Lake, but she has been living there with her common-law husband for more than a decade. Still, chief and council consider her a guest, and sent her a letter asking her to leave.
"There have been reports of your negative public commentary of our local community," the letter stated. "This is creating hardship for our people."
The Aug.7 letter went on to say "We cannot tolerate this type of action or behaviour from people who are here as guests."
Kamalatisit believes she was targeted because of her husband’s political views.
"I thought this was like a free country, like you could live anywhere you want to," she said. "I just never expected to be treated the way I was treated when I was in Sandy Lake.
"I’m just saddened to see that our life was shattered because of this," she added.
Human rights complaint
Sandy Lake Chief Bart Meekis wouldn’t comment publically on the situation, saying it is not in the best interest of his community to do so at this time.
Kamalatisit said she is in the process of filing a human rights complaint.
An Anishinaabe lawyer said the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does apply on reserve, but Joan Jack said First Nations are also recognized as sovereign entities under Canadian law and that has the potential to cause conflict.
Jack, of Alghoul and Associates in Winnipeg, wouldn’t comment directly on the situation in Sandy Lake but said the Canadian concept of individual rights isn’t always compatible with a First Nation’s view that the community comes first.
A 'one-canoe' view of individual rights
She said First Nations recognize individual rights within a broader concept, where everyone is in "one canoe."
"My individual rights are protected in the fact that I have a particular seat in that canoe that belongs to me and no one else, and I get a paddle," she said.
"But I have to paddle in the same direction as everyone else in the canoe or I’m to cause in a lot of trouble … unless that’s what you feel like you should do.
"As an indigenous person, I think that’s our primary fundamental law that if you feel like you need to paddle in a different direction, then do that," Jack said.
"But don’t be surprised that everybody else in that canoe is going to be upset for quite a while.
"You may manage to change the whole direction of the canoe and that’s good, if that’s what your purpose in life turned out to be, then you will have re-directed the nation and you will probably end up at the front of the canoe."
Jack said First Nations may be forced to encode their traditional ways of recognizing individual rights within the collective as a means of responding to human rights complaints.
"I went to law school, I’ve learned all about … the Canadian way," Jack said.
"But I also have to be able to understand how it is to live in the community and that’s a completely different world."
Meanwhile, Kamalatisit has left Sandy Lake but said she misses her family and friends there. She said she would like the opportunity to return once the conflict has been resolved.