A polite but determined group of Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band members took over the band office at 9 a.m. Monday, March 18 citing a violation of their rights.
Rocky Tomma says the office will remain closed until a meeting can be held with Chief Felix Arnouse and band council members Brian Finlay and Tess Tomma, who is currently out-of-town. Neither Arnouse, nor the band council members responded to requests for comment before press time.
“As a Little Shuswap Lake Indian band member, I can no longer sit idle and continue to be oppressed by the leadership and the rules, regulations and policies that are currently in place through this dictatorship,” asserts protest organizer Rocky Tomma in a written statement.
Quoting a section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Tomma says the absence of general band meetings and lack of financial updates on the band or corporate endeavours, or on current and future developments, violates his rights, and those of other band members living off the reserve.
Tomma also takes issue with the Feb. 22 election in which Chief Felix Arnouse was re-elected, maintaining no provision was made for mail-in ballots. He calls for a re-election in order to “promote peace and harmony within the community and provide equal rights to all on- and off-reserve members.”
Chase RCMP Const. Rob Claypool, the local First Nations liaison, has visited the band office several times a day since the protest began.
“There was no violent takeover; it was very peaceful and they did allow payroll staff to stay for the day so they could still look after business,” he says, noting there are usually six or seven people supporting Tomma’s protest. “There is a willingness on both parts to solve this.”