Former Splatsin Chief wins first round in alleged racially motivated firing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Former Splatsin Chief wins first round in alleged racially motivated firing

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January 24, 2019 - 8:00 PM

ENDERBY - The First Nations Health Authority has lost an appeal by a former Chief of Splatsin First Nation who says his firing by them was racially motivated.

Former Chief of Splatsin First Nation, Michael Christian, will have his complaint heard following the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal's decision to throw out the claim by his former employer to dismiss the case.

In a ruling dated Jan. 18, tribunal member Kathleen Smith moved it forward. According to the ruling, Christian alleges his employment was terminated due to discrimination based on race, ancestry, place of origin and political belief. Christian accuses the health authority of prejudice because he is from the Interior.

Christian told he was "ecstatic" following the tribunal's decision and that he hoped the case would “provide some justice in relation to Indigenous rights.” Christian declined to comment further citing that the case is still ongoing.

The First Nations Health Authority said in an email that it had accepted the complaint and is participating fully in the matter. The email states that it is "important to note... [that] the ruling makes no findings of fact and simply provides for the opportunity for a hearing.”

Christian, who is the brother of the current Chief Wayne M. Christian, was hired by the health authority in June 2015 and had his employment terminated in November that year during his six-month probationary period.

According to documents, Christian alleges adverse treatment due in part to his political beliefs which are “directly associated with my place of origin." Christian alleges discrimination because he was "outspoken... to the failure of the ‘Leadership’ at FNHA." Christina describes himself as a "long-time and strong advocate for Aboriginal title and rights."

Christian, who was Chief of the Splatsin from 1999 to 2001 and currently works for the Splatsin First Nation, says there is a major political divide among Indigenous peoples in B.C, between those groups who work closely with the government and those who do not. Christian states he puts himself in the category of "groups that do not."

According to the hearing documents, Christian accuses senior management at the health authority of bias against nations in the Interior. Christian claims that comments were made about them being “subverts” and that their “political beliefs” are contrary to those of the leadership at the First Nations Health Authority. Christian claims management made claims about the Interior in "negative terms" and referred to his brother -  who is the Interior representative for the First Nations Health Committee - as one of the "troublemakers."

Christian claims management ignored his attempts to resolve the "Interior problem" and that he was told his opinions were affecting team morale. Christian says he was never formally warned or given an opportunity to correct any perceived objectionable behaviour before he was fired. Christian says there were no "performance issues that would justify the termination of his employment" and that the "majority of staff" were non-First Nations and "valued his opinions" because he had lived and worked on First Nations lands and reserves as was a former Chief.

The health authority argued Christian was dismissed solely for employment-related reasons and that Christian was "unable to fulfill the professional requirements of the position."

Tribunal member Kathleen Smith states that while nothing in her decision is a reflection on whether Christian's complaint will succeed, a hearing is necessary to find out whether Christian's "race, ancestry, place of origin or political belief was a factor in the termination of his employment."

Smith states the tribunal offers parties mediation services and encourages both parties to consider Tribunal-assisted mediation to resolve the complaint.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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