Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Elmer Frank meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in August, 2017. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members plan peaceful protest near Tofino

“It’s been building up over the past four or five years.”

A group of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members are planning a peaceful protest on Jan 15.

“The protest is planned to bring light to the lack of transparency and accountability of our Administration and Chief & Council of Tla-o-qui-aht,” reads an announcement distributed by Tla-o-qui-aht member Corinne Ortiz-Castro Thursday evening. “We want a positive solution to correct our Administration and Chief and Council. We are humans too and deserve to be treated fairly, honestly and given fair chance in our home of Tla-o-qui-aht.”

Ortiz-Castro told the Westerly News that members have spoken to Tla-o-qui-aht leadership but feel their concerns are not being addressed.

“It’s just boiled over where we’re not heard at all,” she said. “Nobody’s listening to our concerns whatsoever…A group of members have been upset. It’s been building up over the past four or five years. We’re not getting services, like patient travel, social assistance, housing, just to name a few.”

The protest will be held at two locations on Jan. 15, according to the announcement: the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s Treaty Office in Tofino and the Tiic-Mis-Aq’kin Health Centre in Ty-Histanis. Both events are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

“Our ultimate goal is we want to have a positive change,” Ortiz-Castro said.

Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Elmer Frank told the Westerly News Thursday night that he had heard a possible protest was being planned, but was unclear about what it was about though, he said, he has heard concerns related to patient travel for medical appointments as well as housing issues.

“I’m kind of mindboggled by the protest because we’ve always had an open door policy and no one’s ever been turned away from the Nation,” Frank said. “We don’t have closed-door meetings. Our council meetings are open-door. Our administration has open-door policies.”

He assured he would attend the protest and address any concerns raised.

“People have their freedom of expressing their concerns. I’ve always really felt that I’m a good communicator and our administration is very good at communications. We feel that we’re achieving hearing concerns. Obviously, we’re not going to make everybody happy,” he said. “I’ll definitely be there to hear concerns and try to address them in the best way that I can…I really have the belief that everybody has a freedom of expression and I certainly support their endeavours, provided that there’s going to be a positive result at the end of the day.”

The nearby Ucluelet First Nation held a protest over transparency concerns last year.

Frank met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in August, 2017, and lifted a ban the Nation had placed on the Prime Minister from entering their territory the year prior.

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