Employees fired, suspended for circulating petition

Jenny McCarthy
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Simeon Tshakapesh

On Friday, Rose Poker and Agathe Rich received written warnings.

By the end of the day, both women had been fired from their jobs at the women’s shelter in Natuashish.

“This dismissal is due to your political behaviour contrary to the interest of the elected chief and council,” the letter to Poker stated, adding that the order for dismissal came from Chief Simeon Tshakapesh.

Poker doesn’t feel she did anything wrong.

The letters stem from a petition that Poker,  Rich and Clarence Nui were circulating outside of office hours in Natuashish last week. The petition was protesting a proposal by Tshakapesh and Sheshatshiu Chief Sebastien Benuen to ask the band councils’ board of trustees for permission to remove $25 million from a trust fund established for the communities’ children.

The chiefs said the money was badly needed to complete housing and infrastructure projects.

Nui was given a warning letter  by the band council’s lawyer and was told that if his political involvement continued, he would be dismissed from his band council position of tribal policeman.

Nui has held the job for nearly 16 years.

He’s not sure why he wasn’t been fired like Poker and Rich.

Neither of the three regrets circulating the petition.

“I’ve got kids,” Nui said. “I have to think about their future, too.”

The chiefs have since backed down on their request for the money. Council member Andrew Penashue made the announcement on the Sheshatshiu radio station Monday.

Poker and Rich intend to fight to get their jobs back.

Poker is a single mother of two, who was also financially supporting her oldest daughter, who is also a single mother.

Poker and Rich are sending their letters of dismissal to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

According to human rights laws, a person cannot be legitimately dismissed from their jobs for expressing political opinion.

The band council is the main employer in Sheshatshiu and Natuashish and operates the women’s shelter, the school and the grocery store.

In addition to circulating the petition, Nui, Rich and Poker tried to explain to the public about the proposal to remove money from the trust fund last week but were not permitted to speak on the local radio station, which is also run by the band council.

Prote Poker, a former band council chief, runs a second community radio station and he allowed the trio to go on the air.

Rose Poker said this is not the first time the chief has disciplined people who have opposed his political decisions.

Late last year, Judith Rich was suspended from her position as an addictions treatment counsellor at the Healing Lodge after she raised a banner at her house demanding that a drug dealer be removed from the community.

She was later reinstated but is now on stress leave.

Her sister was fired from her position as treatment counsellor.

Tshakapesh is in Ottawa this week for meetings and could not be reached for comment. Nor could Benuen.

Tshakapesh, however, did contact VOCM’s “Nightline” Tuesday night and contended the petitioners were trying to stop the healing in the community.

“I’m very surprised that the same people who raised the issue of solvent abuse won’t let us use the money,” he said.

Some members of the communities are concerned with the chiefs’ spending priorities.

On his Facebook page, Tshakapesh says he distributed  $5,000 to Natuashish residents and “$3,500 not long after.”

A total of $5.5 million has been given to community members since Tshakapesh became chief early last year.

He has also arranged for WWE wrestlers to come to Natuashish to perform and has agreed to take four local youth and chaperones to Toronto to see wrestling.


The Labradorian

Organizations: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

Geographic location: Natuashish, Ottawa, Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Sick of it
    February 09, 2011 - 17:50

    I'm tired of hearing the cries of the *oh poor me* innu,Yes, I'm glad these people have taken a stand about the money for the future of the kids,and hope they get their jobs back. BUT, I live in Goose Bay and am sick to death of hearing the * our land * and the * we want money from this, that and the other * . I wish the governement would get a back bone and say *HELL NO!!!* Not be walked over and give free everything. Why was 5.5 MILLION!!!! given freely to the members of the community? Exactly for WHAT reason was this done? I have lived in Labrador my whole life, I am as much an owner of *OUR LAND* as they are, yet i get nothing, I work, and dam hard!! I have a sick child, yet nobody is willing to toss some of that *our land* money my way to help my child get the medical attention needed. How about they get jobs(there are loads out there) and put that money into a medical fund for the the people of the province who can not get help from anyone. My parents maybe from Newfoundland(and I'm proud of this), but I was born and raised in Labrador!! I AM LABRADORIAN AND SICK OF IT!!!!! Oh, and Gerry, well said!

  • james
    February 09, 2011 - 16:32

    Simeon Tshakapesh needs to be check out in a metal hospital period . i cant imagine the amount of money he has wasted on him self and his pretend friends the lawyers. suck it dry before his time is up i guess thats what he is planning on the people expense. make me sick the thought of him being in power and making his people live in fear of job lost when there isn't much employment in the town already. all he is doing is peaking on the weak abuse of power

  • Gerry
    February 09, 2011 - 14:06

    Well goddamn it ...... it will soon be time for all of us to start a new revolution. "A total of $5.5 MILLION has been given to community members since last year .... and ....... he has also arranged for WWE wrestlers to come to Natuashish to perform and has agreed to take four youth and chaperones to Toronto to see wrestling." Am I reading a fairy tale here? Good God .... what in hell is going on? Is this how your tax dollars (and mine) are being spent? For some, it seems "life is a banquet, while most poor suckers are starving to death" (Auntie Mame 1958). Some day I expect we will become so frustrated we may be motivated to duplicate a page from the streets of Egypt and Tunisia in order to awaken our politicians to the fact that many of us have become "fed-up" with the uncontrollable, trivial expenditures of our tax dollars. And having said that, I guess I will be marked a redneck and a bigoted and intolerant person. But to repeat a movie quote from one of the oldies of the 1940s, " Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn".

  • John
    February 09, 2011 - 12:08

    What is this? North Korea? This whole situation reaks of Dictatorship. The people of the tribe need protection.

  • jim
    February 09, 2011 - 12:05

    Time for a new election

  • maclean
    February 09, 2011 - 10:19

    Is this some kind of joke? Seriously?

    • concerned
      February 09, 2011 - 13:34

      I think its time for the Government to check on the Spending of this Chief.It seems that there are more important things in his community yet he is spending money on Wrestling. i wonder what he whats to do with the 25 million ,take a group to Las vegas.he is saying it is Healing ,I don't think so