Monday, November 01, 2010

Bearpaw First Nation election postponed

The leadership of the Bearspaw First Nation in Alberta has suspended band elections for 13 months so the leadership can run clean and sober, and imposed drug and alcohol tests to address the matter. The move had been met with protests by some band members.  

Chief David Bearspaw rejects critics who say the decision is undemocratic.
"I don't think I'm anti-democratic. I think we've conducted this comprehensive survey and I have to respect the wishes of the people, and the survey speaks volumes." Bearspaw adds that in order to fix the problems on the reserve, the entire band leadership must be clean and sober. In a Canadian first, the reserve has imposed mandatory drug and alcohol testing for chief and council. "I feel it that has to start from the top," he said. "There has to be good leadership, good accountability, good role model." While some native reserves have banned alcohol, it's unclear whether compulsory drug and alcohol testing will withstand a legal challenge...
Chief Bearspaw suspects some long-time band councillors have abused their power, pointing to one person who was paid nearly $300,000 — most of which was for travel and perks. However, Bearspaw believes much of that money was spent on trips to drink and gamble. "When I came in I was asking myself was that part of the job, or is that something that went off course?" While some of the protesters agree drug and alcohol testing might be a good idea, they still want to have a say in a vote about any changes Chief Bearspaw makes.

Interesting. Based what's in the news item, Bearpaw being a First Nation riddled with alcohol and drug problems and is I would contend is something close a state of emergency. There's no reason to suspect that Chief Bearpaw has any other motives in mind than cleaning up his community. And he's being quite open about it.

Apparently however, according to the quote in the CBC item, this move to both address community health, leadership, and challenge the "industry" still isn't good enough for one noted critic of things Aboriginal:
"To discriminate against people for engaging in activities which other Canadians are entitled to do, seems to me quite a dangerous development."

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