The Federal Court has sided with Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Chief Karen Bird, in that she was unfairly removed from her position last spring.

The Court found that Council and the Elders Council decision for removal in May 2022 did not follow the First Nations Elections Act and procedural fairness.

Justice McDonald wrote that the Elders Council did not give Bird ample time to review the complaint made against her, nor afford her sufficient opportunity to defend herself from such accusations.

“Prior to the February 8th meeting, she was not aware of the nature of the complaint or the specific allegations made against her. Although the PBCN Council of Elders informed the Applicant of a letter, they did not advise her of the contents of the letter, nor did they advise her that the letter was a “complaint” from the PBCN Band Council,” wrote the court. “The Applicant was therefore not able to prepare in advance of the meeting to address the contents of the complaint; rather, she had to address the complaint immediately and on the spot.”

Furthermore the Court concluded Bird was not informed that an investigation was launched into her alleged misconduct. “There is no evidence the Applicant was formally advised an investigation would be undertaken, nor was she advised, formally or otherwise, that PBCN Council of Elders were considering her removal from Office. Consequently, there was no process afforded to the Applicant that gave her proper advance notice of the written complaint and other allegations against her or the jeopardy she faced,” the decision said.

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.

Justice McDonald found the First Nation breached its Elections Act, by not presenting a petition of 15 percent of the electorate for Bird’s removal.

“The Chair of the PBCN Council of Elders received a formal complaint, as specifically referenced in the Decision. However, the complaint from PBCN members lacked a petition from 15% of the PBCN electorate as required by the PBCN Election Code. In my view, by taking steps without the required petition, the Council of Elders was not acting within their mandate under the Election Code,” she wrote. Bird “had the right to the protections afforded by the Election Code, and was entitled to know the full case against her and the opportunity for a full and fair chance to respond. Neither of these most basic procedural fairness safeguards were afforded to the Applicant in this case.”

Bird is awarded costs associated with the judgment. She was retuned to office last July, following an injunction and the conclusion of the judicial review.