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Saskatchewan band councillor ousted from role flags potential charter infringement

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan band councillor ousted from role flags potential charter infringement' Saskatchewan band councillor ousted from role flags potential charter infringement
WATCH: A councillor for a Saskatchewan First Nation is questioning whether he was discriminated against after he was removed from the position – Aug 13, 2020

Update: The by-election to replace Thunderchild First Nation Coun. Michael Linklater has been put on hold. Linklater said he filed for an injunction to suspend the by-election, which was granted on Sept. 16. The injunction is expected to remain in place until the judicial review of the case is complete.

A former band councillor for a Saskatchewan First Nation is questioning whether his charter rights were infringed upon after he was removed from office.

Michael Linklater was ousted as councillor for Thunderchild First Nation (TCFN) on July 13 because he doesn’t live on the reserve, about 100 kilometres northwest of North Battleford.

Linklater wants to be reinstated and has requested a judicial review of the decision made by the Thunderchild First Nation Appeal Tribunal.

A notice of application filed in federal court Friday says the appeal tribunal panel made errors in law and based its order to remove Linklater from office on erroneous findings.

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“I think it can be viewed as discriminatory to not only myself, but anybody who does not reside on the nation,” Linklater told Global News.

“Because I live here (in Saskatoon) does not make me any less of a band member.”

Linklater, best known for his career with the Saskatchewan Rattlers basketball team, has lived in Saskatoon for nearly three decades.

Read more: Michael Linklater, Team Saskatoon say goodbye to 3×3 World Tour

Thunderchild’s election act states councillors must live on reserve. In the notice of application, Linklater calls for a referendum on that clause.

He questions whether the residency requirement in the election act infringes on equality rights within Canada’s charter.

“This is an important issue not only for myself when it comes to the charter and if it applies to the Thunderchild election act, but this is a question that’s heavily debated across Canada,” he said.

A notice to band members penned by Thunderchild operations director Winston Walkingbear says a byelection will be held as soon as possible.

Walkingbear did not provide direct comment on the case.

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“TCFN Government will be issuing a formal communique response to our own TCFN membership to update TCFN Election Act developments,” he wrote in an email, noting the response will be available to media.

The case started when a band member filed a complaint, Linklater said.

In addition to the First Nation, two citizens are listed on the notice of application, but neither were available to provide comment Thursday.

Read more: First Nations women to be treated equally under Indian Act: Bennett

While Linklater said he respects the desire for leaders to live in the community, he said most band members live off reserve.

“Currently within the election act in Thunderchild, it doesn’t really state that there’s representation for those members,” said Linklater, who was elected in October of 2018.

“There’s a large voice that wanted me to be a leader, so it’s really unfortunate that a lot of those people who elected me (to be a) leader are now left in the dark.”

Thunderchild First Nation has been given 10 days to respond to the notice of application.

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