Over a third of Skin Tyee First Nation (STFN) members are demanding their chief to resign.
Skin Tyee members Candy Michaluk and Ryan Tom started circulating a petition last July demanding to remove Chief Rene Skin from office. Skin has been in power for approximately five years.
“The petition started because when he was elected he promised that there would be financial transparency and accountability,” said Michaluk. “The first couple of years he was doing his job, and after two years it started slipping, the communications started falling off between chief and council and band members; we requested information on their wages and they refused to give it to us… they said it was confidential.”
“For our small band, they are earning quite a bit of money,” she added. “But we just want them to have financial transparency and be accountable, and they are not.”
According to documents available through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Chief Skin was paid $128,470 in remuneration and $13,261 in travel-related expenses in the 12 months ended March 31, 2017, bringing his total income to $141,731.
Michaluk says the concerns are not just about financial transparency.
“It’s not just the wages, it’s also the Election Code. Part of our Election Code says that the chief has to live on reserve, and he’s rarely on the reserve… he’s only seen around during meetings. He doesn’t live there, and chief and council aren’t willing to enforce that rule.”
According to STFN’s Election Code, the chief has to live within 50 km of the band office.
A total of 61 signatures - over a third of the 165 registered STFN members - have signed the petition, which says that “members no longer have confidence in his leadership and deem him unfit to represent the nation as chief.”
“We request an immediate review of his adherence to the STFN Election Code, the STFN Code of Ethics, and the Oath of Office of the Chief,” states the petition.
Michaluk and Tom said the petition was given to council last fall, but that no meaningful action has been taken since then.
According to the federal government, the STFN council is not elected under the election provisions of the Indian Act, but rather under its own community election rules. Therefore the process to remove an elected official is determined entirely by STFN and the rules it has set out. The federal government has no role to play.
“We’re at a loss right now, it’s very frustrating,” said Michaluk. “We’ve presented this petition and they [council] still won’t follow through. Our election code is so ancient… it doesn’t even have that we can use a petition to get him out.”
“We’ve been finding it hard to get some positive change,” she added.
Elders express concerns
Hereditary Chief Mable Jack, junior elder Richard Skin and elder Angeline Crocker have recently reached out to Lakes District News to express their concerns.
The elders say they felt disrespected when they were asked by Chief Skin to leave a council meeting in late January 2018 after expressing some of their concerns. The elders say that although an apology from the chief would be welcomed, it would not be enough.
“We want to see him gone,” said Jack.
No response from Chief Skin
Lakes District News attempted to contact Chief Skin several times - via email, phone and through the band’s general manager -, giving him approximately 10 days to respond. However, the chief could not be reached by press time.
Skin Tyee’s next general election will be held in February 2019.