The saga featuring the Ucluelet First Nation’s government and citizens who do not feel their government is acting in their best interests turned another page last month during an assembly meeting in Hitacu.
Standing at a microphone set up for members to speak to their legislature on March 12, Jenny and Lorri Touchie claimed a letter had been sent by their government to their employer at the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve regarding a protest they had both participated in on July 17, 2017, where protesters had voiced concerns over what they believe has been a lack of transparency from UFN President Les Doiron’s administration.
“My employer was contacted by this administration to try to get me fired from my job,” Jenny Touchie said. “Why is the first line of action to try to get people fired, to have their livelihood taken away, rather than to sit down with people and talk about the issues?”
She said she had obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information request and read a portion of it aloud at the meeting.
“I have been directed to enquire of you if Parks Canada has a code of conduct and if that code lays out responsibility for federal government employees to be respectful in their everyday lives,” she read. “As you know, you have two employees, for two and a half years, who have continually undermined the Ucluelet First Nation government. In the spirit of the federal government’s reconciliation mandate and our government to government relationship, please advise what avenues the [Ucluelet First Nation government] has to file a formal complaint.”
After reading the letter, Touchie asked, “How can you not classify that as bullying, intimidation and harassment?” and added she had taken the day off work, was not wearing a Parks Canada uniform, and was on her own time when she participated in the protest.
Doiron responded that the intent of the letter was not to get anyone fired, but rather to clarify the Nation’s relationship with the federal government.
He confirmed to the Westerly News that his government had sent the letter and that it had contained the passage Touchie quoted at the meeting. He said he felt sending the letter was important because the Park Reserve represents Canada’s federal government.
“We’re government to government; not government to Parks Canada. Parks Canada is a branch, or a subsidiary of the government…Our relationship is with the Prime Minister,” he said. “We need to represent ourselves in a professional manner and if someone’s going to be making accusations of corruption and such, I think that we need to be able to deal with that in a professional manner. That’s what it comes down to… Nowhere have we tried to have them fired. If that was the case, those letters would be written a lot harsher and firmer than that and they would have gotten more than one letter.”
He said he had taken particular exception to the July 17 protest because the protesters accused him of being corrupt.
“If you’re going to make an accusation, you better have some concrete evidence,” he said. “What is it that we’re doing wrong? We may not be governing in a way that you want to be governed, but we’re governing and if you don’t like that, at the end of the day, what you can do is you can vote us out. That’s democracy. That happens in Ottawa. That happens in Victoria. That happens in Tofino.”
He said the Nation faces challenges in terms of healing relationships as well as transitioning to the Maa-Nulth Treaty it signed in 2011 and he plans to host a community dinner to engage with membership, strengthen relationships and talk about the implications of being a treaty government.
“I really believe that having open dialogue and having stronger, better, communication is key,” he said adding he doubts that increased engagement would please everyone.
“I think you’re faced with that in every community that you go to. You’re always going to have that five-to-20 per cent of the people that you’re not going to keep happy.”