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MARCH 30, 2009                                                

First Nation votes to oust Chief Potts

Temagami First Nation voted yesterday to oust Chief Gary Potts and the council. The unanimous vote took place at a community assembly held on Bear Island.

No councillor, Potts or any supporters turned up to present a case against their removal from office. This meeting was the second and final vote in the tribal process for removal. The first vote was held on March 14.

Today, the new Chief and Council, elected in October, will take over administration. Roxane Ayotte was elected chief after irregularities in the June 12 election, which had brought Potts back to office after a decade in the cold.

Potts ignored efforts to appeal the vote problems, then fought new elections and binding decisions from community meetings (tribal assemblies).

Potts brought a challenge to these decisions to Federal Court, scheduled to be heard on April 27. Even the decision to go to court violated the tribal constitution.

TFN voters saw all his and council's actions an affront to, and disregard for, their rights, the constitution and their deeply held belief in self-government (by going to court). Community protests left the Chief and Council isolated and unable to operate beyond day-to-day decision-making. Impeachment became inevitable.

“I am confident that Chief Roxane Ayotte and all our elected officials will now move forward in the best interest of Temagami First Nation,” says elder Maurice McKenzie.

RELATED STORIES: Three Elections, Two Chiefs, One Quagmire

                              First Nation court date set  

                              First Nation chief and council impeached

                              Indian Affairs' contradicts policy

                              TFN council stripped of authority

MARCH 23, 2009                                                

Park fees rise for canoeists, rest get free pass

With the economy in trouble and backcountry overnight-camping fees in the parks already considered too high, will they drop? Not a chance. Stay even? Never. Oh, no. Oh, yes. Up they go.

There remains no fee for non-summer campers, motorboaters, ATVers, snowmobilers, day campers, patrons at in-park lodges, land-use permit holders and other day users, only for overnight campers and the bulk of those are canoeists. So the burden of fees will continue to be borne by canoeists.

     Adult overnight-camping fee per night:
 Park 2007 2008 2009  
 Temagami backcountry $8.50 8.40 9.50
 Algonquin* 10.00 9.90 11.00  
 Quetico (except south access)* 14.00 13.85 14.00
 Wabakimi* 8.50 8.40 9.50  

   * Residents of Canada

  Temagami Fees 2009    




Ontario persons with disabilities



   4.50   – 2.25

18 and over

    9.50    7.50 4.75

As Chiniguchi Park and Temagami River do not have management they will not have fees this summer. Camping fees in Temagami backcountry parks began in 2004.

Backcountry parks with fees:

Lady-Evelyn Smoothwater Wilderness

Obabika River

Sturgeon River

Sturgeon River Addition


Management continues to shuffle. Joe Major is the acting superintendent (replacing Kevin Pinkerton) as MNR searches for a permanent replacement for John Salo.

MAP:  Backcountry parks

     BACKGROUND: Backcountry Parks Guide

    WEBSITE: MNR's official parks guide (PDF)

Photo: Red Squirrel Road blockade, September 18, 1989, at Wakimika Creek. Two protesters are buried upright in the road

Red Squirrel Road blockade, September 18, at Wakimika Creek. Two protesters are buried upright in the road (left and centre foreground).

MARCH 17, 2009                                                

Fall Gathering will mark Red Squirrel blockade

The annual fall aboriginal Changing of the Seasons will be held on Wakimika Lake to mark the twentieth-anniversary of the Red Squirrel Road blockade.

Teme-Augama elder Alex Mathias hosts the traditional aboriginal gathering during the fall equinox on his tribal land on Obabika Lake.

September 18 is the anniversary of the start of the Temagami Wilderness Society's blockade of the nearby logging road on Wakimika Lake.

Protests on the road continued until December after the Teme-Augama Anishnabai set up a base camp at Sandy Inlet. There were 344 arrests and participants came from as far away as Wales. At the time it was one of the largest logging blockades in Canadian history.

The fall gathering will be held September 18 to 21. Participants need canoes, food and camping equipment. Access is by canoe, bush plane or professional tour company.

Contact Amber Ellis at Earthroots for more information at 416-599-0152 ext 11.

  EXTERNAL LINK:  Earthroots event info

PHOTO ESSAY: Temagami Wilderness Society blockade

BACKGROUND: Gatherings from the past

                        Gathering photos 2008   

MARCH 15, 2009                                                                                UPDATED: MAR. 16

TFN council stripped of authority

Yesterday the tribal assembly of the Temagami First Nation stripped Chief Gary Potts and the band's council of its authority.

In a nearly unanimous vote (116 with one abstention), the Chief and Council had their executive powers removed.

Since the June 12 election of Potts, political turmoil has gripped the First Nation as Potts struggled to hold office and the people fought to remove him.

Potts and the councillors did not attend. In fact, there was no one there to defend or support them.

“I find this an inappropriate forum to proceed with impeachment," said Steve Turner, "when we’re not able to hear the voices of the current sitting chief, second chief or any of the councillors.”

To which former chief Joe Katt responded, "I was impeached in 1993 and I came to give my side. Gary was given plenty of notice of the opportunity to come and give his version of events — and he failed to.”

The tribal constitution requires 51 per cent of eligible voters to carry a resolution. One hundred participants — representing the 51 per cent — were eligible to vote based on a voter list from June. Complex residency rules make some TFN members ineligible to vote.

A single error in a ballot by an eligible voter on the second resolution to remove the chief and the councillors from office meant it did not pass the 51 per cent threshold. It will have to go to a second assembly on March 29.

A chief or councillor must co-sign cheques issued by the band. Without the ability to pay bills, band operations will freeze.

This week the bank will have to determine if it will continue to recognize signors from the existing council.

On October 26, a new Chief and Council was elected. Potts did not recognize this council and vowed to continue a court case that would determine the legality of his own election in June.

At that time, the bank and the Department of Indian Affairs (INAC) chose to recognize Potts and his council, thereby preventing the new council and its chief, Roxane Ayotte, from taking office.

Brock Worobel of INAC wrote in an e-mail: "The Temagami First Nation establishes [its] election and governance issues outside the Department's Indian Act jurisdiction. The Department cannot rule on the First Nation's code [aka tribal custom] or its processes, nor can it intervene to override the code."

Yet, on that occasion INAC did override the code.

Will the bank and INAC recognize the tribal decision as they have in 1993 and 2002 when assemblies took action against chiefs?

If they do, will they recognize the Ayotte council or will INAC be forced to come in and take over band management?

RELATED STORIES: Three Elections, Two Chiefs, One Quagmire

                              First Nation court date set  

                              First Nation chief and council impeached

                              Indian Affairs' contradicts policy   

MARCH 11, 2009                                                

Indian Affairs' election rejection contradicts policy

Indian Affairs refusal to recognize the October election of Chief Roxane Ayotte and councillors left her with moral, but not formal, authority over the Temagami First Nation. That Gary Potts holds.

And he owes that power to Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) for the contradiction of its own policy.

Brock Worobel of INAC wrote in an e-mail: "The Temagami First Nation establishes [its] election and governance issues outside the Department's Indian Act jurisdiction. The Department cannot rule on the First Nation's code or its processes, nor can it intervene to override the code."

Yet it did rule on, and override, the code by its October 31 refusal to recognize the code-conforming election.

INAC's recognition is vital as the department provides most of the funding for the operation of the band's administration and works programs, the health-care centre and the school. About half of all jobs on the reserve are dependent on the band.

Even if INAC did not take over band management (which it could if run by an uncertified Chief and Council) the band would suffocate without funds in weeks, if not sooner.

Worobel justified the department's election rejection by pointing to the November 17 Federal Court decision "that ruled that the current chief, Gary Potts, and his council are to continue to govern the First Nation until the judicial review."

However, that ruling (which did not rule on support for the Potts' council) was over two weeks after INAC refused to recognize Ayotte so it could not have played a role in the rejection.

Worobel added that INAC had decided "to continue to work with Gary Potts" as chief because it had "undisputed information provided by the electoral officer for the election of Gary Potts on June 12."

In fact, the electoral officer's information was disputed, which is why the First Nation held the new election. The First Nation's membership has been in political turmoil from June to now. Council has been crippled by opposition, unable to conduct any business beyond day-to-day affairs.

There appears to be a disconnect between INAC and the on-the-ground reality in one of its bands.

One way for the department to get its facts straight, and get its actions consistent with its own guidelines, would be to attend the impeachment of Potts and council this Saturday on Bear Island. All parties could benefit by an outside observer.

However, INAC reports it will not attend. Is it worried it would get the facts straight?

RELATED STORIES: Three Elections, Two Chiefs, One Quagmire

                              First Nation court date set  

                              First Nation chief and council impeached

MARCH 6, 2009                                                

Retrospective in photos on greens' 1989 blockade

On September 18, the Temagami Wilderness Society blockaded the Red Squirrel Road and shut down construction of the logging road. Over 200 people were at Wakimika Lake and the arrests began.

PHOTO ESSAY: Temagami Wilderness Society blockade



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