By Shari Narine
BIGSTONE CREE NATION
Travis Gladue says Bigstone Cree Nation Chief Gordon Auger is shutting out off-reserve industry without having gone to the membership first.
“He never even consulted with the membership. He never even held a band meeting. The last band meeting he had was Nov. 30 and there was a motion to have him removed,” said Gladue.
Minutes from the Calling Lake general membership meeting, provided by Gladue, indicate that a motion was made to remove Auger as “the lead negotiator for industry for Bigstone Cree Nation effective immediately. The motion was passed by a majority vote.
Gladue says he is part of a “big group” of both on and off-reserve Bigstone Cree Nation members that is advocating for transparency from the chief and has been in contact with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to have a forensic audit undertaken of the band’s finances.
The latest move by Auger, says Gladue, is why transparency is needed.
On March 10, the First Nation had posted a list of companies on its website that would not be allowed access to the First Nation: CNRL, Laricina, Husky, Cenovus, Exact Oilfield, Alstar Oilfield, ALPAC and all log haulers. That list has now grown to include BonaVista, TransCanada, Banister, TOLKO, and West Fraser. Access will be denied as of March 13.
If Auger had consulted with membership before taking this action, membership would have wanted more information, says Gladue. “They would have asked why and what were the negotiations leading up to this and why he’s doing this with his claims and who sat in on the … negotiations. It’s always been him, none of the other councillors,” he said.
Gladue says the chief’s latest stand with industry will only hurt BCN members.
“CNRL already said they’ll issue a statement that they provide lots of jobs, lots of work to a lot of local companies that are First Nations and Metis and now they’re very, very upset and these are Bigstone members and they don’t understand why Gordon is doing what he’s doing,” said Gladue. “Because now they can’t go to work.”
Gladue alleges that Auger is wanting to charge industry 15 per cent royalty to access natural resources from the First Nation’s land. Gladue says industry is refusing to pay.
Troy Stuart, land manager for BCN, said border security would be set up on March 13. Local traffic, emergency vehicles, and other non-industry vehicles will be allowed access to the First Nation. According to the band’s website, the gateway structures for border security will be located on Highway 754 (Deep Valley) and on Highway 813 (Rock Island Lake Roadside Turnout). The areas will be patrolled 24/7 by Bigstone personnel.
In a Feb. 20 letter to Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan, Auger noted a number of reasons why access would be denied to the “multi-national corporations,” including lack of contract opportunities for local companies; unfulfilled impact benefit agreements; lack of meaningful consultation by both the multinational companies and the province’s Aboriginal Consultation Office; protection of surface and ground water; delayed transfer of treaty entitlement lands; and neglect of a referendum in the transfer of administration and control of highways.