Outspoken chief rejects council call to resign
A Manitoba First Nations chief whose controversial comments made national headlinesis refusing to step down, even though a band watchdog group has voted to remove him and his councillors from office.
Speaking to news organizations last month, Chief Terry Nelson of the Roseau River First Nation said: "There's only one way to deal with a white man. You either pick up a gun or you stand between him and his money."
Nelson has also threatened to block railway lines running through his community on June 29— a national day of action to draw attention to aboriginal poverty and unresolved land claims.
Late last month, the Custom Council of the Roseau River First Nation served a notice of non-confidence in Nelson and his council andordered a new election for the positions.
"Chief and council were given notice that their last day in office would be June 1," said Martha Laroque, the vice-chair of the council. "We don't have a chief and council in Roseau."
Council member Felix Antoine, a former chief and a political rival of Nelson's, said the comments were the final straw for the group.
"He's humiliating us, embarrassing us. We don't want to be portrayed as terrorists. We have to put a stop to this," he said.
Nelson says he supports the Custom Council's right to recall democratically elected officials, but says this particular council hasn't followed proper procedures for appointing members. A decision made in a secret meeting, possibly without quorum, can't be valid, he said.
Nelson says in contrast, he and his council were re-elected in March for their third straight term, an indication of the support they have in the community.
He also speculated there could be external pressure to get rid of him before June 29.
"I've made quite a bit of enemies in the way I approach things, national day of protest and other things," he said. "Any other opposition in community, no matter how illegitimate it may be, it will be heard."
It's unclear exactly how much authority the Custom Council has, but in the past, the federal court has accepted the results of elections called by this group.
A spokesperson for the Department of Indian Affairs said the department would continue to recognize Nelson as chief until the community elects a new chief and council according to its election code.
Native protesters have held several high-profile rail blockades in recent years. Among the most recent, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte in southeastern Ontario blocked CN lines for 30 hours in late April, disrupting passenger and freight trains in the busy Toronto-Montreal corridor.