A determined group of members from Thessalon First Nation blocked the route into the Thessalon First Nation Band Office Tuesday, to raise awareness for issues, they say continue to plague the First Nation Band.
Johnny Wabagwan, spokesperson for the protesters, told saultonline via telephone, “We’re trying to find a better way for Chief and Council to share information and make things work better for our people. We’re here to demand transparency about what Chief and Council are doing with band monies, and how jobs are issued.”
Early this morning, the protesters blocked the road leading into the Band office. Wabigwan said they stood outside all of the doors to the band office and blocked access to anyone trying to enter the offices.
“We don’t have access to the list of members of Thessalon FN, both on and off Reserve. When we requested the membership list, we were told that confidentiality prevented them from giving it to us.” Wabigwan had wanted to reach out to band members, to rally support and mobilize Thessalon FN citizens.
Wabigwan told saultonline that “an imbalance exists where one family name continually dominates proceedings and decisions made regarding the Thessalon First Nation. It’s never going to change, unless we come together to make it happen.” he said.
Wabigwan went on to say “All but one of the members of Band Council are from the same family. We are feeling more and more powerless. We don’t have a voice here. We are asking for transparency to see how Band monies are being spent.”
“This First Nation largely consists of one family in power” he said “And with only one member on Council not from within their own family, it continues to create an unfair system for decision-making.”
Wabigwan said, “Victoria Wabigwan, is the one lone voice we have on council that isn’t related to the rest of the Band Council.” He further stated there are continual and ongoing challenges for Band Councillor Victoria Wabigwan, who’s voice, he says, is constantly quashed by a majority of members who are all from within the same family.
Wabigwan went on to say “We don’t know how to fix this, but we know that it is unfair, and we are advocating for change.”
Alfred Bisaillon is Chief of Thessalon First Nation. The website shows 5 individuals as Band Council members.
“The only way I know left to us for access to transparency, and become enlightened about things that they are actually doing to improve the lives of our members, is to hold this protest. One side of the family gives all the jobs to their direct relatives. My dad lost his job recently, and then they turned around and gave his job to their cousin.” shared Wabigwan.
The protest lasted all day, and wrapped up at 5:30 pm. Wabigwan stated, “A meeting is being organized for August 12th, 2016.” Contact Johnathan Wabigwan at: johnathan. [email protected]
From Thessalon FN Website: ‘Chief and Council are responsible for setting policies and objectives to ensure that these are properly administered by the band through management. These include local administration of community services for residents on band controlled land, including roads, housing, health, education, infrastructure, etc. The council is also responsible for the interest of the band membership regarding matters affecting Aboriginal rights, treaties, band capital and funds held in trust. In this respect, their jurisdiction extends to band members living off reserve. Band Council may also deal with matters involving non-band members with respect to business and industrial interests, such as the regulation of land leases, royalties, lumber, tourism etc.’