A Balancing Act: Does A Sovereign First Nation Have The Right To Remove Visitors From The Community Based On Their Legal And Cultural Traditions?

August 30, 2017: That is the question that a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing in Thunder Bay is going to have to answer. Sandy Lake First Nation, represented by Falconers LLP lawyer, Asha James, has the right as a sovereign nation to exercise its cultural and legal traditions, and that one of the customary laws is the ability to remove visitors who disrespect those longstanding practices.

The tribunal is hearing evidence concerning a complaint by a former resident Angele Kamalatisit, of Sandy Lake —a fly-in community 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay—that she was discriminated against when she was kicked out in August of 2012, and is seeking financial compensation for pain and suffering.

James stated, “the eviction was not for any discriminatory reason, “but rather due to community unrest and some social media postings that were angering community members, so out of concern for her safety and the safety of community members and to ensure the tension in the community did not escalate.”

According to Kamalatisit, she wasn’t personally interested in the politics, and didn’t get involved. “I’m not from there and I understand that it’s none of my business as a member of another First Nation.”

James, however, said Kamalatisit was involved in Facebook commentary with negative remarks about the Chief and council, personal attacks about their lifestyle, and allegations that they had behaved improperly. “Those were the issues that were upsetting to community members, who felt there was a lack of respect for Chief and council.”

James also mentioned that most First Nation band councils, including Sandy Lake’s, are accustomed to some people being unhappy with election results, and that was not a factor in their decision to ask Kamalatisit to leave. Rather, she said, “It had to do specifically with her own actions and her own words, and an increasing level of tension in the community regarding her statements.”

In an interview with Tbnewswatch.com, James suggested this case will likely be in the forefront in setting out what Chiefs and councils are allowed to do, and “how the human rights tribunal will recognize and balance a nation’s traditional laws and cultural practices with ensuring protection for individuals under the human rights code.”

In the News

Human rights case puts First Nation’s laws under scrutiny    tbnewswatch, August 31, 2017

Sandy Lake strikes back; Tribunal takes turn on second day   The Chronicle Journal, August 31, 2017

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