Burns Lake area First Nation to pay $30,000 for discrimination

Former Nee Tahi Buhn councillor had filed complaint

The Nee Tahi Buhn First Nation must pay a former band councillor $30,000 after its one-time long-standing chief councillor described her as a “white bastard” in several emails.

The award to Hayley Nielsen was ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal following a complaint made to the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding the conduct of Raymond Morris.

From evidence gathered over two days of hearings in Burns Lake in Nov. 2019, the tribunal found that Nielsen, whose mother is a member of the First Nation and whose father is Caucasian, was discriminated against because of her racial origin.

Morris used the term “white bastard” in two 2016 emails with one stating “I resign f—-en white bastards run it.”

“Ms. Nielsen felt directly targeted by these vulgar words, which refer directly to her Caucasian origins,” wrote tribunal member Gabriel Gaudreault in a multi-page decision posted to the tribunal’s website last month.

Nielsen was elected as a first-time band councillor in 2014 and Morris was returned as chief councillor in that same election. He was defeated in a 2018 election.

Gaudreault also found Nielsen was discriminated against because she did not wish to follow a long-standing council practice of praying at the beginning of council meetings or band assemblies as she expressed she did not practise a religion.

Based on the evidence presented, Nielsen’s position of not practising a religion appears to have been the start of a deteriorating relationship with Morris.

At one 2016 band assembly, “Mr. Morris, in front of everyone and including the other councillors, loudly proclaimed that since Ms. Nielsen does not practise religion, she should not serve as councillor,” Gaudreault wrote.

Nielsen remained in her post as band councillor, but citing a developing toxic environment, resigned in 2017.

“When relying on the grounds of religion, Mr. Raymond Morris attempted to suppress Ms. Nielsen’s right to equal opportunities, by stating publicly that since she does not practice a religion, she should not have the opportunity to hold the position of councillor,” Gaudreault wrote.

“Similarly, Mr. Raymond Morris’s vulgar comments, specifically the terms “white bastard” are outrageous. These comments are directly based on Ms. Nielsen’s mixed origins. She felt that because of her origins, she was treated differently ….”

Gaudreault also found Nielsen to be the subject of sustained harassment by Morris, writing that evidence presented “shows that not only does the element of repetition exist, but the severity of the incidents is high enough to constitute harassment.”

The tribunal member also noted the minimal participation of the Nee Tahi Buhn First Nation, finding that despite multiple opportunities, it did not enter any evidence nor offer a defence.

A First Nation representative, Frank Morris, did attend portions of the two-day Nov. 2019 hearing but did not offer any documents.

“I made sure that Mr. Frank Morris understood the gravity of the situation and the consequences that would ensue if the respondent did not provide a defence,” Gaudreault wrote.

Further evidence presented also indicated another councillor, Charity Morris, also resigned because of harassment from Morris and that Nielsen’s son, Cody Reid, left his post as deputy chief.

The $30,000 awarded to Nielsen was divided into two parts — $5,000 for pain and suffering caused by the discriminatory comments and $25,000 in lost councillor wages from the time of her resignation in 2017 to the election date the following year. She was also awarded interest of $500.

Nielsen had also asked for a letter of apology to be published on the First Nation’s Facebook page and in the Lakes District News, but Gaudreault found that this was not within the tribunal’s authority to order.

But he did order the First Nation to “cease the discriminatory practices and to take measures to prevent such practices from happening again in the future.”

That’s to be done by developing human rights and anti-harassment policies in consultation with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and to hire an expert to train employees, councillors and the chief councillor. The First Nation has 18 months to do this.

First Nations are subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Indigenous LNG supporters chide human rights advocates over pipeline comments

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre path

Houston heads to Burns Lake for hockey

Burns Lake hosted a initiation one day hockey tournament on Jan. 18.… Continue reading

Home sales increase in Houston

Sale prices also increase in the communities

Council to push for high school driver education

Says it will aid in finding employment

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

Most Read