An Alberta-based non-profit said it’s fighting to overcome financial and electoral corruption on first nations by giving band members a voice and legal support.
Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAC) founder Rob Louie said the organization was created to help make a change on issues that have been plaguing communities for decades.
“Up until now it’s been a David and Goliath situation when it comes to chief and council vis a vis band members,” he said.
Since the non-profit organization launched two years ago, it has been fighting for the rights of First Nation band members across Canada.
“We’re finding that every province has their bands that have allegations of band council corruption specifically with respect to breaches of fiduciary duties over band money or electoral problems,” Louie said.
To combat these issues, the organization offers band members legal support to hold chiefs and council members accountable.
“Much of the time band members don’t have the resources or the capacity to speak for themselves, let alone represent themselves in an internal dispute,” Louie said.
The service is free for band members who qualify. Their case is assessed, and if accepted, a lawyer is consulted. Orlagh O’Kelly is a supporting lawyer for BMAAC and said it’s a much needed service.
“They are putting themselves out there when they disagree with their chief and councils. These are small communities and they are taking a big risk, so being able to provide them with support and a conduit to bring forward the needs of their membership has been really rewarding,” O’Kelly said.
O’Kelly said while she is glad to support those who need it, she would like to see more disputes resolved at the band level.
“There needs to be other ways to seek justice and to seek accountability other than going to federal court. While we’re happy to help with that, I’m hopeful that eventually First Nations across the country will start to have their own mechanisms to ensure they can resolve disputes at a lower level,” O’Kelly said.
BMAAC is currently working on 15 legal cases, two of which are in Alberta.