By: Ian Froese
The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
Four women from Buffalo Point First Nation pleaded guilty earlier this year for disobeying a court injunction barring them from occupying their band office.
On Thursday, they were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Judge Ray Wyant was sympathetic toward the four women in Steinbach court, describing them based on previous court appearances and newspaper reports as otherwise outstanding citizens, aside from breaching this court order.
Wyant said he wanted the public to know violating a court's instruction is always illegal, whether one likes the order or not, but ultimately decided to give the four women an absolute discharge.
"I would not sleep for the rest of my life if I gave you a criminal record," said Wyant.
The crown recommended a fine as an appropriate sentence.
Andrea Camp, Helen Cobiness, Kari Cobiness and Brittany Cobiness were charged last October for entering the band office when they were not supposed to. The First Nation's hereditary leader, Chief John Thunder, obtained a court order in 2012 against some members of his community following a month-long protest for elected chiefs and the right to vote in a land code referendum.
The women's lawyer, Norman Boudreau, told the court his clients have been disenfranchised in their community due to the actions of a chief they do not recognize.
"They are losing their identity as Indians," he said.
Camp fought back tears when speaking against Thunder, who she said has the money to fight the numerous legal challenges currently against him.
"We have no recourse out there," she said.
Camp was elected Buffalo Point chief in April after the Southern Chiefs Organization decided to no longer acknowledge Thunder as chief, who has refused to step down.
Boudreau said on Thursday more people in the First Nations community recognize Camp as chief instead of Thunder.