Karen Bird is seeking a judicial review of an Elder’s Council decision to remove her as Chief of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.
In May, the First Nation advised the public that Bird was no longer Chief for “unprofessional conduct, behaviors and lateral violence.” On Friday, the First Nation announced a by-election for Chief to take place on July 25.
In court documents, Bird wants a justice to examine whether her removal as Chief and termination of pay were lawful and to have her restored as the elected Chief of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation. In seeking the court to quash the decision, Bird wants a temporary injunction to preserve her position.
She accuses the Elders Council of not properly following the Custom Law, which requires a petition of 15 percent of the electorate and the complaint be presented to the Elders Council for consideration. Bird states she has not been given a petition, or had sufficient opportunity to respond to or review the allegations. Bird denies the allegations against her.
Is there prior history with a current Councillor?
A sworn affidavit by Bird alleges there is a history between her and Councillor Kevin Morin, dating back to 2018. Bird contested for Chief in 2015 and 2018, losing both times. She alleges that following the 2018 election she was fired as Principal of Reindeer Lake School in Southend.
“The timing of this removal led me to believe that the direction to remove me came from the newly composed PBCN Band Council. One of the newly elected Councillors was Mr. Kevin Morin,” the affidavit said. She indicates that she was removed as principal as new leadership was needed.
In April 2021, Bird was elected Chief and Morin was elected to Council.
Bird’s affidavit states that after the death and burial of her brother in late November and early December of 2021, she missed a Band Council meeting on December 2, where several motions were passed. She denies receiving advanced notice of this meeting as she was previously scheduled to attend Prince Albert Grand Council meetings in Edmonton Dec. 2 and 3. Bird states she would have attended the PBCN Band Council meeting over the PAGC.
“During the meeting of December 14, 2021, I confronted and got into an argument with Councillor Kevin Morin about the Motions of December 2, 2021. I viewed the meeting being called and the Motions being passed at a meeting I could not attend as being done behind my back. I likely would have opposed the Motions passed during the December 2, 2021 meeting,” the affidavit reads. “The argument with Mr. Kevin Morin became quite heated. I asked Kevin Morin about why the meeting was held, and he attempted to orchestrate a walk-out of all Councillors. The argument ended with Kevin Morin leaving the meeting by himself, with the rest of PBCN Council Members staying to conduct business.”
In her Notice of Application to the Court, Bird said on April 14, 2022 during a meeting with the Elders Council, she was presented with a letter dated April 1, accusing her of unprofessional behavior and lateral violence, but the letter came without details.
“Chief Bird asked for further particulars of the allegations that had been brought against her. She was presented with a letter dated January 12, 2022, signed by, among others, Kevin Morin, Councillor for PBCN and a Respondent to this Application. Chief Bird denied the allegations of the January 12, 2022 letter. Despite requesting that she be able to do so, Chief Bird was not allowed to keep a copy of the January 12, 2022 letter,” states court documents “I do recall seeing the letter was signed by Councillor Kevin Morin and several of the other PBCN Councillors. I do not recall who else signed the letter or how many PBCN Councillors signed the letter. From what I can remember, the complaint had to do with the argument which occurred during the meeting of December 14, 2021.”
The Elders Council would examine the allegations against Bird in February 2022. During a meeting on Feb. 8, Bird was asked about two specific alleged incidents; where Bird was accused of being so intoxicated that she had to be escorted from the Dakota Dunes Casino and she got into a fight with a police officer who was escorting her out.
The second accusation was that Bird was inebriated at a Prince Albert golf course and crashed a golf cart.
Bird states there are rumours that she has a drinking problem, has caused property damage and was criminally charged.
“During the meeting with the Council of Elders, all I could do was tell the Elders the allegations were not true. I was not informed who brought these complaints against me, or many details about the allegations, other than being briefly shown the letter dated January 12, 2022,” Bird contends. “During the meeting of April 14, 2022, the PBCN Council of Elders then raised the various rumours that had been circulating about me in the PBCN community. I was asked about an alleged drinking problem, committing property damage, and receiving criminal charges. I was not told who had made these accusations, or about when this alleged misconduct supposedly had occurred. I could do little to respond to those accusations, except to deny them. I explained to the PBCN Council of Elders that those accusations were not true.”
Missed meetings or no notice of meetings
Bird alleges that she did not receive notice of a Dec. 2 2021 meeting of Band Council, one day after her brother’s funeral.
On April 14 2022, she found out the day of the Elders Council meeting, but was not given prior notice. She attended that meeting
She asserts the Elders Council held meetings in various communities on Feb 8, 9 and 10 2022, with no notice given, nor a list of attendees or what was discussed.
Bird claims that she was informed by community members of two meetings in April 2022 in Prince Albert and Sandy Bay. “Even if I had more notice of the April 11 and April 25, 2022 meetings, I was unable to attend either, as I was already engaged to attend other meetings taking place in other locations on those dates. I have now come to believe that these meetings of April 11 and April 25, 2022 were scheduled on those dates so that I would not be in attendance,” court documents state.
During the grand opening of the Peter Ballantyne Child and Family Services building in Prince Albert Friday, Morin declined to discuss the current leadership structure of the First Nation. A request for comment from Council was not immediately returned.
None of the allegations contained in Bird’s submissions have been proven.