Guy Lonechild wins court battle over FSIN job

A court has ruled Guy Lonechild was improperly suspended as chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
Guy Lonechild enters court in Saskatoon Aug. 25 for a court hearing about his leadership. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

A court has ruled Guy Lonechild was improperly suspended as chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

In a ruling released Tuesday, Court of Queen's Bench judge Ronald Mills found that Lonechild's suspension, put in place Aug. 4 by an executive committee of the FSIN, was not lawful.

"The meeting [of the committee] assumed authority not granted to it by the FSIN and denied to Chief Lonechild the basic principles of natural justice," Mills wrote. "I am setting aside the [committee's] decision."

Mills stopped short of saying that Lonechild should keep his job, leaving it to the chiefs of the organization to decide if they want to continue their challenge of his leadership "in accordance with the FSIN rules and regulations and the principles of natural justice."

The court ruling also said a meeting set for Thursday to hold a non-confidence vote on Lonechild could not proceed.

Mills said an application for a vote of non confidence can still be taken in accordance with the rules of the federation.

According to the ruling, some people involved in the process to suspend Lonechild were not sure about the process and voiced their concerns during a hearing on  Aug. 4.

Personal interests at play

"There was considerable uncertainty with respect to the process to be followed," Mills said. "It is clear from the material and the comments made during the hearing that some people present had a personal agenda that they wished to press forward."

Mills said the FSIN should have taken more steps to ensure the process was followed to the letter, given it was the first time that an application for a vote of non confidence in the chief of the group was made.

"The importance of this process to the FSIN .. .and to all First Nations individuals throughout the province should have made those responsible for the process to be vigilant in ensuring that it was conducted fairly and impartially with respect to all those involved."

Drinking and driving charge 

The suspension came after Lonechild was convicted in March of drunk driving. He was charged by Saskatoon police on Sept. 3, 2009, and seven days later, he applied to run for chief of the FSIN.

Lonechild was elected on Oct. 29, 2009, but did not publicly announce his drunk driving charge before the election.

It wasn't until this year, in February, that the media reported that Lonechild was facing the charge.

At the FSIN's winter assembly that same month, several delegates called for his resignation. Lonechild refused.

With files from the Canadian Press