Edmonton-area First Nation chief charged with sexual assault

RCMP have charged Alexander First Nation Chief Kurt Burnstick with sexual assault.

Alexander First Nation Chief Kurt Burnstick faces one charge following three-month investigation

RCMP have charged Alexander First Nation Chief Kurt Burnstick with sexual assault.

The charge stems from an investigation opened in December, police said.

Morinville RCMP investigated with the assistance of the Edmonton RCMP.

Police said the alleged victim is a woman known to Burnstick.

Burnstick is not in custody. His first court appearance is scheduled for Apr. 14.

The Alexander First Nation reserve is located in Sturgeon County, just northwest of Edmonton. About 1,100 members live in the community.

The band sent out a media release Friday morning announcing the charges, which police confirmed later in the day.

"Our current leadership table is obviously taking this very seriously," said Cheryl Savoie, director of economic development and interim band spokesperson. "It is obviously a serious situation that has to be dealt with."

Savoie said community leaders will hold an emergency political caucus, followed by community consultation and a "decision will be made shortly" about Burnstick's status as chief.

Burnstick was elected in August 2014, but has spent nearly a decade in the political realm. His term ends next year.

"The community is really torn at this time," said Savoie. "We will have to come together and hopefully from this become stronger in our communication, a little bit more open now amongst ourselves."

She expressed support for the woman who made the allegations.

"The community is going to take this in a positive light and address some real issues for our women in our community and hopefully give them a stronger voice back," said Savoie. "This is encouraging that someone felt strong enough to obviously stand up for themselves. And we have to support that.

"I just think that this is an encouraging breaking of the cycle for some of our women."