How do you fire the boss?
That’s certainly the question the Cree Board of Health and Social Services has been preoccupied with these last few months. The answer is one of the following: a) secretly; b) by calling it a suspension; c) by saying the position of chairman – not the chairman himself-is suspended; d) all of the above.
If you chose “d,” you’re one smart cookie. And you have to be smart in order to follow the twists, turns and mysteries that are enveloping one of our most important institutions.
To confirm the rumours floating around for a month now, Nemaska representative Bertie Wapachee is no longer chairman of the CBHSS. At a meeting last month, the board voted to suspend the position of chairman. Meaning Wapachee is out of a job. But then the board voted to make Chisasibi representative Charles Bobbish acting chair. Meaning the position of chairman is now magically unsuspended. Stop and take a few quick breaths if you’re getting dizzy.
Not that you’re supposed to know any of this. The CBHSS apparently believes it can fire the boss and continue along as if nothing has happened. No official announcement has been made. No press releases issued. Bobbish did not return phone calls to the Nation to comment on this strange and troubling turn of events. Wapachee, for his part, says he has no comment, “for the moment.” Executive Director Abel Kitchen,
meanwhile, says he wasn’t at that meeting, and thus -you guessed it – cannot comment.
Well, the Nation believes in openness, transparency and free speech – especially as it regards an entity so central to the lives of each and every Cree – so we will comment. Something smells rotten here. This has all the earmarks of power politics run amok. And at a point – as we also hear -that the Cree are about to sign a health agreement with the province of Quebec, to have political vendettas crippling the board of health and social services is about the worst timing possible.
What we can piece together from the rumours and speculation is that Wapachee didn’t play the game according to the new, secret rulebook that says, “You’re either with us or against us. ” What this means is that Wapachee didn’t publicly support the “Paix des braves” deal with Quebec when his turn came to step up and smile for the cameras last year. And now he’s paying the price.
No doubt there will be some face-saving explanation that is supposed to spray some Lysol on these bad odours. Something like overstepping his authority, or needing to refine the mandate of the position – bureaucratic words that essentially mean, “We are bullshitting you, but we can get away with it”
What makes the timing of this move so curious is the imminent health deal with the province. What form, one wonders, will the chairmanship take once the Cree have a formal health system that they themselves control? Will it be a democratically elected position, one accountable to the people, as the Cree have with their school board?
Or will it be a lapdog position accountable only to the Grand Council, which will then teach their chair-poodle to roll over and play dead whenever it wants him to?
In the meantime, Bertie Wapachee has been airbrushed out of the picture, just like they used to do in Stalinist Russia. Some charge will likely be dredged up to justify the kangaroo-court treatment he has received. The saving grace will be that he likely won’t be sent to the gulag.
More importantly, however, is that a key Cree entity is showing itself to be subject to petty politics at the very time it needs to inspire confidence amongst the people it is supposed to serve.