Siksika Nation Member Being Sued for Erecting Blockade to Protect 'Way of Life'
Metro News, October 2016. Find the original article here.
Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Friesen
Ben Crow Chief has been living in a tepee blockade on the Siksika Nation reserve for the past 337 days. Now he’s being sued.
The Chief and Council are taking Crow Chief to court for blocking the construction of permanent housing on the reserve, and jeopardizing the Nation’s contract to rebuild the community after the 2013 Alberta floods.
Crow Chief erected the blockade last year to prevent Whissel Contracting Ltd. from continuing the project, because he felt that residents weren’t consulted beforehand. He also said the Chief and Council have been negligent with their allocation of the flood relief funds.
“It’s convenience for [the Nation], but for us, we have to spend the rest of our lives in these homes,” said Crow Chief, who would like the residents to have input about their living situation.
“They just don’t want to be held accountable [for their spending]. They’re just trying to use the people’s funding to cover themselves up.”
The Province has committed approximately $45 million to the Siksika Nation’s flood recovery efforts, with more than $14 million being put toward the rebuild of homes in the Cluny Subdivision, where Crow Chief is protesting. However, the funding will only be available should all rebuilding efforts be completed by March 31, 2018.
That’s why the Chief and Council have filed for an injunction prohibiting Crow Chief and other protesters from delaying the project. They are also seeking damages in excess of $500,000, which would cover the cost of the delay in construction.
Crow Chief finds it outrageous that his own people are suing him, especially since all legal fees are being pulled from the Nation’s coffers. He chalked this up to another misuse of funds.
Leroy Wolf Collar, coordinator for the Siksika Rebuild Flood Recovery Project, said that the Nation submits an audit report every two weeks to the Department of Aboriginal Relations, meaning that it would be difficult to be anything but transparent. He added that the Chief and Council had no choice but to hire a lawyer and file an injunction.
According to Wolf Collar, the Nation isn’t targeting Crow Chief specifically. “They’re simply saying that we need to get this job done. We need to build these homes. There are going to be 14 people out of homes if they don’t finish construction.”
Ben’s sister, Lillian Crow Chief, said that her brother is fighting to protect their Treaty 7 rights. “What he’s doing - it’s not for money, it’s not for fame, or for him to gain anything. He’s doing this out compassion for the other flood evacuees,” she said.
Vincent Yellow Old Woman, Chief of the Siksika Nation, was in Ottawa meeting with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and unavailable for comment.
The matter will be heard in a Calgary court on Friday morning.