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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 7, 2013
Burns Lake Band members evicted from their blockade by armed riot police.
On day 14 of a non-violent protest held at the Burns Lake Band office, approximately 50 or more riot police, many with shotguns drawn evicted three adults and one 12 year old child. 92 percent of the eligible voters on-reserve had signed a petition in support of the protest despite claims to the contrary by the INAC chief councillor, Albert Gerow. The protest has garnered very little media attention and support over the last few weeks but band members maintained a 24 hour presence at the office, locking out the staff and council until their requests for information and consultation were answered. The impoverished community wants to know where all of the money from the community goes. Ryan Tibbetts who was manning the protest this morning stated, "I was overwhelmed and very frightened because I had my 12 year old son there playing Xbox. All of a sudden there were cops squeezing through the door with the two councillors. I was quite shocked because they came unannounced. The police had their cameras rolling while they allowed Gerow to read out the letter that basically said we were trespassing and if we didn't leave they would call the cops. The funny part was they already had 50 or more armed police with them. Some had their guns drawn and they were hiding all over the place. When I went to point to show my son the police were there they drew their guns on me. It was a peaceful blockade. What I don't understand is why they need the riot police to get four of us out of our own band office. We have spoke daily with the RCMP over the course of this protest and continually asked what the RCMP's role was in this process, as peace keepers or negotiators. Chief Albert Gerow and Dan George have never responded to any of our attempts to communicate, including formal letters of mediation from our lawyer."
Councillor Ron Charlie has been advocating for his community over the past few months in attempts to figure out what is going on with the band's finances and suspected deals made with pipeline companies against the communities wishes. He state that attempts for assistance from INAC were ignored and was told this was an internal issue for the band members to figure out. Councillor Charlie had hired a personal lawyer to help wit the case. "All three councillors are required for a quorum but all of these decisions happened without my input or involvement. I have no idea what is going on. There were legal processes happening as we speak and I believe it was a little over the top to have the riot police involved. All I've wanted from this is transparency and accountability from the other two councillors. We just want truth in this matter and after this I see we need the involvement of our hereditary chiefs to take over the mediation of this. Transparency is the main thing we need for the well-being of our community. This is not the first time police have been used against our community for speaking up against this council, but this is extremely excessive, violent force to use against your own people. If this is allowed to silence band members while we are trying to follow process and left without recourse, it can happen anywhere. My family and I have been threatened by this council to stop our actions but we will not be silenced."
All four individuals present at the protest at the time of the bust willingly left the building. Meanwhile, the RCMP taped off the entire building and parking lot as a crime scene, however no charges were laid. The small band and the local community are very shaken up by the extreme measures taken by Chief Gerow and the RCMP. RCMP has been brought in from other jurisdictions, including over 30 squad cars and a convoy of unmarked cars to assist the local law enforcement. Luckily, nobody was hurt in the altercation.
For More Information:
Councillor Ron Charlie
Burns Lake Band
Facebook: Respect Project - BLB