Edmonton

Group of women at Alexander First Nation demanding chief step down from position

Some women from Alexander First Nation northwest of Edmonton want Chief Kurt Burnstick resign from his position. Burnstick is facing sexual assault charges.

Chief Kurt Burnstick facing sexual assault charges from 1985, 2015

Janet Campbell holding one of the signs they will carry at Thursday's rally. (Emily Fitzpatrick)

They're calling themselves the Alexander Women Warriors.

The group of about 15 women from Alexander First Nation, northwest of Edmonton, wants Chief Kurt Burnstick to resign.

Spokesperson Janet Campbell says a man accused of assaulting women in his community should not be speaking on their behalf.

"As Aboriginal women, those kind of things get swept under the rug," said Campbell.

Alexander First Nation Chief Kurt Burnstick faces criminal charges. (Twitter )

Burnstick will go to trial in January on one count of sexual assault from an attack that allegedly occurred in October 2015.

This month it was revealed Burnstick has also been charged with sexually assaulting a woman on the reserve twice in 1985.

Burnstick remains free on bail. He will make his first court appearance on the most recently laid charges Oct. 18 in Morinville.

When the charge related to the 2015 attack was made public this March, the band council imposed a total media blackout.

The blackout was lifted Sept. 6.

Campbell says women concerned about Burnstick have been forced to stay quiet for too long.

They have planned a rally for Thursday morning at the reserve's community hall. They plan to use the rally to demand Burnstick resign.

"It's very difficult for people to step forward and say, 'Enough is enough,' because they're worried about their jobs, they're worried for their safety, they're worried for their families."

Since the charges were made public, Burnstick has spoken at several events as a representative for Alexander First Nation, Campbell said, including an event for missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

She said the chief staying on despite facing sex-assault charges has women in the community feeling unsafe in many situations.

"As a group of women we actually had a code word on our cellphones that we would type when we were in potentially violent or scary situations," she said. "So whenever someone was being threatened, or feeling threatened, we would type in the code word and everyone would show up."

The group hopes the rally will push more community members to join their cause.

"I think we are taking the right direction, moving forward on what the community is willing and not willing to accept in our leadership."

CBC News reached out to Burnstick but he declined to comment.

emily,fitzpatrick@cbc.ca

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