Friday, April 18, 2014
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Cook’s Ferry Indian Band divided

Band members call for chief’s removal

BY MICHELE YOUNG

DAILY NEWS STAFF REPORTER

Kamloops Daily News

The 23-year chief of the Cook’s Ferry Indian Band is being threatened with impeachment by two councillors and a member questioning the band’s finances.

Band member Nadine Spence has been circulating a petition that asks the council to hold a no-confidence vote and remove Chief David Walkem, who has held the office since 1990.

The petition also asks the band council to vote to pursue legal action against the chief personally and calls for a meeting on Jan. 18 at noon with band members, chief and council.

Band councillor Alanna Cowan said Friday there are questions that she and others want answered.

“We do have concerns. We are seeking legal counsel with regards to our concerns and want to investigate further. That’s where we’re at with it.”

Another band councillor, Cheryl Gilbert, said she and Cowan are initiating the impeachment on an allegation that Walkem breached his fiduciary duty. She said she has reviewed volumes of documents that have raised questions. Walkem vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

A third band councillor, Oliver Hewitt, did not return a call from the Daily News.

Walkem provided The Daily News with a statement by email Friday.

He said no one is being kept in the dark and that there were two general membership meetings last May and June to share information about negotiated agreements with Highland Valley Copper — one of the issues being questioned.

“The council’s current dysfunction is our collective responsibility — mine and that of the three other councillors — and I am determined to work with council on those issues to resolve them,” he wrote.

He suggested Spence attend the next general membership meeting on Feb. 1.

He said he addressed some of Spence’s other concerns about his leadership in a Nov. 27 open letter to band members.

That letter stated the band has not approved an operating budget for this year, and in the absence of that, Walkem said he’s been trying to get important information about expenditures, financial administration and hiring practices for himself and council.

“Some councillors have accused me of trying to micro-manage by asking for this information. I am not trying to micro-manage. Council cannot make decisions affecting the financial resources of the band or the future of the band if we do not have the information we need to make informed decisions,” he wrote.

He also referred to a Nov. 18 document notifying him of an impeachment effort started by two band councillors. On Nov. 25, they put forward a band council resolution that would allow Walkem and council to use band money to seek legal counsel for the proposed impeachment.

“I am deeply hurt and offended by the proposed proceeding,” he wrote.

Spence said she has 45 signatures on her petition so far. The band has about 330 members.

She said the band is divided over the questions of Walkem’s leadership.

Band member, Victor Minnabarrieg, said the rift within Cook’s Ferry is a huge issue.

He’s with a sub-group that formed in 1989, the Pukaist Society, that represents people from surrounding communities who were forced to join the Cook’s Ferry Band in 1990.

“We’re all members of Cook’s Ferry but we’ve been trying to break off for a long time. We haven’t had any support from the band for a long time,” he said.

“We’re asking for representation from each of the communities on the band. That would go a long way (to resolving the band split). There’s probably seven little communities involved.”

His community has territorial rights around the Highland Valley Copper mine, yet have never been part of land negotiations for that area, he said.

He didn’t want to comment on the call for the chief’s impeachment, but feels it’s time for another election. The last one was in 2010 and the next is 2014.

“I’d like to see way better representation of our own community.”

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