Council Sandra Luke (left) Chief Jason Louie (centre)Black Press file.

Council Sandra Luke (left) Chief Jason Louie (centre)Black Press file.

Arbitrator confirms decision on not to remove Chief Jason Louie from office

Chief Jason Louie and Council Sandra Luke will not be removed from office.

An arbitrator who was instructed by a Federal Court judge to revisit some of his decisions has once again ruled that Chief Jason Louie and Sandra Luke, both Lower Kootenay Band Council members, will not be removed from office.

The issue stems back nearly a decade to 2009, when the Band Council of the day, led by Chief Chris Luke, awarded each member a $5,000 bonus after a land sale was made to the Regional District of Central Kootenay. Jason Louie and Sandra Luke were band councillors at the time.

Arbitrator Marko Vesely reaffirmed his decision last year that of the 30 LKB members who signed a petition to have Louie and Luke removed, not all of them confirmed their understanding of the petition before the hearing. In addition, he wrote in his decision: “If I erred in my decision to dismiss the petition for non-compliance with section 29(d)(iii), then I would find that the respondents’ breach of their oath of office does not constitute conduct that rises to the level that warrants their removal from office.”

In a message before the arbitration decision was announced, Robert Louie Jr. said, “I hope it will be a good day…we (LKB) will receive the arbitrator’s decision re: removal of the chief. Hundreds of band members from coast to coast are looking at this case. There is a FB (Facebook) Group known as First Nations Financial Transparency and Accountability that are keen to hear the outcome of Louie v. Louie.”

Vesely agreed with the Federal Court that the 2009 Band Councillors had breached their oath of office by taking the $5,000. He added, though, “The respondents made no effort to keep the payments secret from the Band membership. Among other things, the payments were disclosed in the Band’s financial statements, which were publicly available and were provided to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.” He added that the $25,000 in total payments, and ordered court costs, have since been repaid.

He did not point out that Jason Louie has twice been elected by LKB voters to the Chief’s position since his brother, father and uncle began legal proceedings.

Vesely dismissed a request to require the LKB to cover all the costs of the arbitration process.

“It would not be appropriate to order the Lower Kootenay Band to pay the full indemnity costs of all parties,” he wrote. “The petitioner did not give advance notice to the Band that he was seeking an order for costs against it. The Band is not a party to this proceeding and has not had the opportunity to be heard. Further, the Band membership at large should not be required to pay the cost of a petition brought and supported by only certain Band members, which was ultimately held to be unsuccessful.”

“I order that each party shall bear their own costs of this arbitration, including the reconsideration hearing,” he wrote.

Upon reflecting on the arbitration, Chief Jason Louie stated that “although the process was very difficult, it showed me how supportive people, inside and outside the Lower Kootenay Band community, can be.”

Robert Louie Jr. had no comment on the arbitration decision “No comment. We will move forward. No further action will be taken.”

Creston Valley Advance