UPDATE: The article has been changed to include information from a Blueberry River First Nation statement that came out on Friday.
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The tension continues amongst the Blueberry River First Nation council after Chief Marvin Yahey failed to call regular council meetings.
A Federal Court judge issued a new court order against Yahey on Thursday requiring three councillors to receive a $5,000 payment, regular meetings to be conducted on set dates, and the court order is to be posted in the Band’s office and on their website.
The previous court order against Yahey and two other councillors was issued on May 14th, and requirements included regular council meetings to take place twice a month.
Since Yahey failed to follow a court order, Honourable Micheal Phelan was set to issue a Show Cause Order. This would require the Chief to explain the reasoning for not conducting the meetings, however, Yahey requested the court not issue the order.
“The court retains a narrow window of discretion not to issue a Show Cause Order which is to be exercised sparingly and with prudence,” said Judge Phelan in the order issued Thursday.
Instead, the councillors who won a civil suit against Yahey and the other councillors in May agreed to a cost order and an apology from the Chief.
“In the unusual circumstances of this case, the Court is prepared to exercise its discretion not to issue a Show Cause Order upon the following terms.”
Councillors Shelley Gauthier, Robin Ewaskow, and Troy Wolf sued Chief Marvin Yahey, claiming he has broken his fiduciary duties. The suit was also against COO Merlita De Guzman, and councillors Sherry Dominic and Wayne Yahey.
In the civil claim filed in December, the plaintiffs argued that Chief Yahey, the president, only officer and director of Yahey Brothers Enterprises Ltd., has not followed the custom code and has benefited financially from being Chief of the community. The councillors gave one example in the lawsuit that they believe shows the Chief benefited financially when his company worked and benefited from a Gas Link contract in 2017.
The British Columbia Supreme Court struck out the civil claim on July 15th.
“The claim was struck on the basis that it did not disclose a proper claim against the Chief, and costs were awarded against the three councillors,” said BRFN’s statement on Friday.
The court order issued in May also required the Chief to address a petition asking for his removal. In addition, Merlita De Guzma, the Chief Operating Officer, is required to release a report detailing the call for Yahey’s removal.
After around a 7-hour review of the petition in June, the petition committee posted on Facebook at the beginning of July, calling out the conduct of councillors during the review. They also stated they were short signatures, which wasn’t the case before the review.
BRFN released a statement on September 3rd stating the petition failed following a council meeting on June 28th.
“No court challenge was brought within the 30 day time period, and the matter is therefore concluded, despite media reports and statements by certain BRFN members,” says BRFN in a statement.
The Show Cause Order is not dismissed, according to Judge Phelan.
“The motion is adjourned sine die to be brought on, as necessary, by the Applicants or the Court on its own motion,” read Phelan’s ruling on Thursday.
“The parties and those to whom this Order becomes known are again alerted that Court orders are to be complied with and that failure to do so exposes the offending person(s) to the most severe penalties for contempt.”
Documents related to the legal disputes can be found on the Band’s website.