One community, two chiefs. Fort Albany is in a state of political uncertainty as two chiefs lay claim to being the community’s rightful leader.
Arthur Scott was elected in a community election held by secret ballot on July 2. But trouble started soon after the election when some residents started getting the feeling that Scott was arrogant and running the band undemocratically.
One of the last straws came when Scott fired the community’s elected education committee one year before its mandate was up. According to Mike Metatawabin, one of the committee members who was fired, Scott appointed new members to the committee who had little experience with education issues.
A heated band meeting was held August 27 to discuss Scott’s actions. Metatawabin said Scott defended himself by saying, “I’m the boss. I can do anything I want.”
“People got really upset over this,” said Metatawabin. “We didn’t like his tone.”
Scott responded by accusing his critics of being disgruntled members of the former administration. He accused the previous administration of financial wrong-doing and wasting the community’s money. “We uncovered some irregular practices with our big projects,” Scott told us in an interview.
As the two sides traded accusations, a petition was circulated in Fort Albany calling for Scott’s removal as chief. The petition was signed by 186 people.
Another general meeting was held on Sept. 5. Band members decided to hold what is known as a “custom election,” a show of hands to select a new chief. Fort Albany October 25,1996 hasn’t seen a custom election in about 30 years, but they are allowed under Indian Act rules, according to Metatawabin.
Scott, who was also present, refused to recognize the assembly and turned down his nomination. In all, 95 people voted in the custom election and elected Bernard Sutherland, a trapper and heavy-equipment operator, as chief.
But Scott still refuses to step down. “Snap elections have not been recognized since the 1950s,” he told The Nation.
“You just can’t have elections every two weeks. We have not done anything wrong here. We’re trying to adopt a democratic environment here for all.”
Scott said after he became chief, he made some disturbing discoveries about how the previous administration ran the band. For example, he said the band’s construction company isn’t actually owned by the band. Scott said the company is owned by the previous band manager. This company received millions of dollars from Indian Affairs for construction projects.
Scott also said the company overspent on a major project to the tune of $517,000.
But Scott’s critics say his allegations are unfounded. They say the band manager doesn’t own the construction company. She merely allowed her name to be used when the company was being registered.
As for the overspending, they acknowledge that mistakes were made. But they also say Scott has been overspending himself since he came to power.
Wawatay News reports that Indian Affairs is staying out of the dispute, saying it’s up to the community to figure out who is the real chief.