Burns Lake area First Nation to pay $30,000 for discrimination

Burns Lake area First Nation to pay $30,000 for discrimination

Former Nee Tahi Buhn councillor had filed complaint

The Nee Tahi Buhn First Nation must pay a former band councillor $30,000 after its one-time long-standing chief councillor described her as a “white bastard” in several emails.

The award to Hayley Nielsen was ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal following a complaint made to the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding the conduct of Raymond Morris.

From evidence gathered over two days of hearings in Burns Lake in Nov. 2019, the tribunal found that Nielsen, whose mother is a member of the First Nation and whose father is Caucasian, was discriminated against because of her racial origin.

Morris used the term “white bastard” in two 2016 emails with one stating “I resign f—-en white bastards run it.”

“Ms. Nielsen felt directly targeted by these vulgar words, which refer directly to her Caucasian origins,” wrote tribunal member Gabriel Gaudreault in a multi-page decision posted to the tribunal’s website last month.

Nielsen was elected as a first-time band councillor in 2014 and Morris was returned as chief councillor in that same election. He was defeated in a 2018 election.

Gaudreault also found Nielsen was discriminated against because she did not wish to follow a long-standing council practice of praying at the beginning of council meetings or band assemblies as she expressed she did not practise a religion.

Based on the evidence presented, Nielsen’s position of not practising a religion appears to have been the start of a deteriorating relationship with Morris.

At one 2016 band assembly, “Mr. Morris, in front of everyone and including the other councillors, loudly proclaimed that since Ms. Nielsen does not practise religion, she should not serve as councillor,” Gaudreault wrote.

Nielsen remained in her post as band councillor, but citing a developing toxic environment, resigned in 2017.

“When relying on the grounds of religion, Mr. Raymond Morris attempted to suppress Ms. Nielsen’s right to equal opportunities, by stating publicly that since she does not practice a religion, she should not have the opportunity to hold the position of councillor,” Gaudreault wrote.

“Similarly, Mr. Raymond Morris’s vulgar comments, specifically the terms “white bastard” are outrageous. These comments are directly based on Ms. Nielsen’s mixed origins. She felt that because of her origins, she was treated differently ….”

Gaudreault also found Nielsen to be the subject of sustained harassment by Morris, writing that evidence presented “shows that not only does the element of repetition exist, but the severity of the incidents is high enough to constitute harassment.”

The tribunal member also noted the minimal participation of the Nee Tahi Buhn First Nation, finding that despite multiple opportunities, it did not enter any evidence nor offer a defence.

A First Nation representative, Frank Morris, did attend portions of the two-day Nov. 2019 hearing but did not offer any documents.

“I made sure that Mr. Frank Morris understood the gravity of the situation and the consequences that would ensue if the respondent did not provide a defence,” Gaudreault wrote.

Further evidence presented also indicated another councillor, Charity Morris, also resigned because of harassment from Morris and that Nielsen’s son, Cody Reid, left his post as deputy chief.

The $30,000 awarded to Nielsen was divided into two parts — $5,000 for pain and suffering caused by the discriminatory comments and $25,000 in lost councillor wages from the time of her resignation in 2017 to the election date the following year. She was also awarded interest of $500.

Nielsen had also asked for a letter of apology to be published on the First Nation’s Facebook page and in the Lakes District News, but Gaudreault found that this was not within the tribunal’s authority to order.

But he did order the First Nation to “cease the discriminatory practices and to take measures to prevent such practices from happening again in the future.”

That’s to be done by developing human rights and anti-harassment policies in consultation with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and to hire an expert to train employees, councillors and the chief councillor. The First Nation has 18 months to do this.

First Nations are subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Kristy Bjarnason will be filling in the position left vacant by Darrell Hill. (Councillor Kristy Bjarnason Facebook photo/Lakes District News)
Kristy Bjarnason elected to be the new councillor

Preliminary election results for the 2021 by-election declared

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

Most Read