iN PERSPECTIVE: Bonnie Watts explains her eviction from WFN in her own words - InfoNews

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iN PERSPECTIVE: Bonnie Watts explains her eviction from WFN in her own words

Bonnie Watts stands with her late husband Michael's eagle wing.
April 17, 2019 - 6:31 PM

KELOWNA - Bonnie Watts, the woman who is being evicted from her home on Westbank First Nation land, reached out to iNFOnews with a letter detailing her experience. We've reposted the full letter here.

I have been invited to respond to the original article written by Sean Mott in his review of Justice Hori’s recent court decision, and his work to report what transpires at the Kelowna Court House. Sean writes for his Info News article and opens discussion with on-line comment pages. His writings have enacted a broader discussion of the issues in Native Title and Rights, Westbank First Nation Government, and my personal challenge with this particular First Nation Government to keep our home. I wish to thank Sean for taking the initiative to contact us now, and for the invitation and opportunity to participate and respond to his article, coverage, and discussion in the aftermath of his work.

My husband Mike Watts died suddenly on April 27 2018 as a result of a brain aneurism that burst while he was getting ready to go to work early that morning. Mike and I had drawn legal wills with Garry Benson QC from Benson Law LLP about 10 years earlier, leaving each other everything we owned. About two weeks after we buried my husband I contacted Benson Law to begin to settle Mike’s estate and was advised the first step was to register the property lease for our new home that Mike had set out in his will. Mike was a WFN band member and had the ability to set out a legal lease for our property. This was the beginning of the dispute with Westbank First Nation Government, as the Government refused to register the lease. Most people have suffered loss of loved ones and will understand WFN Government was acting at a time when this family was legitimately and culturally honouring real loss, love and confusion over the sudden dearly departed husband, father, uncle, leader, employer and veteran. Mike was also an Elder of Westbank First Nation. It was then and continues to be a difficult time to dispute legal issues in court and move into a Constitutional legal challenge.

WFN Government responded to my attorneys’ request and refused to register Mike’s lease. This ultimately became the origin of creating further distress at a most sacred time. The WFN Government threatened to evict “forcibly remove” me from our marital home.

It was the blunt force initiative the Government has taken in response to my interest to settle my husband’s estate, in registering the lease on his property on WFN lands, as his executrix and next of kin that led to and inspired court action. The results of this action have subsequently led to greater confusion in First Nations Rights & Title as the decisions rendered by Justice Hori now have legal implications for all Native people on all reserves in Canada through the Allotment Lease to Own Home Program. This includes band members of WFN currently in Allotment, and band members of other Native Nations on other reserves who are also in Allotment.

The Lease To Own Allotment Housing program exists on WFN Lands and also across the country on most reserves in partnership with Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC). As status Indians, and as band members of two distinct First Nations’, my husband and I decided to live on his reserve, here in the Okanagan nearly 25 years ago. I am a band member at Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation – a Treaty Indian. Treaties are international agreements between Nations. My treaty is a legal and binding contract between Canada and the Ojibwe people. The treaties in Canada have been upheld by the United Nations. As part of the treaty, Canada must provide certain services to me and to my people in exchange for use of our lands. For Canada to deny the Treaty or want to change their obligation to it, they must return to the treaty table and make amendments with our agreement. Like any binding contract, one party cannot simply abdicate or change the provisions without negotiating the change with full agreement from all parties. This is a rule of law that keeps peace between Nations around the world.

The Federal Department of Indian Affairs is responsible to provide housing to First Nations treaty people and they extend their duty through CMHC. Although many Nations in British Columbia have yet to negotiate treaties, bands here do negotiate housing programs with CMHC and provide housing for their people. Westbank First Nation does not have a treaty with Canada, but they do provide housing through their Allotment Housing program and Rental Housing program, through arrangements and funding with CMHC. The difficulty exists for us as a married couple in transferring property Rights & Title from reserve to reserve, even though Canada and the Crown hold all lands on all reserves. Westbank First Nation chose not to uphold the Treaty in principle we have with Canada, with respect our home here, for me, once my husband passed away, and WFN Government has no legal obligation to do so, although my First Nation does honour those agreements. Had Mike and I decided to live on my reserve, we could still have applied for the Allotment Home, as the lands are still Crown lands, and the program still runs through CMHC on reserve. The only difference being; my First Nation upholds Marital Rights and Title to stay and live/own the marital home, and respects marital interests regardless of the spouse’s Native band of origin.

Most First Nations in Canada belong to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The AFN is our National body and assembly of Chiefs who meet to regularly determine our affairs in common and to move ideas and improvements forward on behalf of the people. The AFN also negotiates on our behalf with Canada and generally all members in the AFN uphold the individual advances made by Native Nations across Canada. In this way we do not compete nor prevent other Native Nations from moving forward, and we honour each individual Nation’s ability to do what they feel needs to be done. Native people in Canada are extremely proud of Chiefs who act on our behalf through the AFN, and also of our Grand Chief. Although my husband Mike and I are from different Native Nations, we have the same Grand Chief who is charged with upholding our interests nationally. Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation and Westbank First Nation are both members of the AFN.

For more than 10 years Mike and I rented a small duplex on Falcon Lane from WFN through their rental-housing program. We were simply rental tenants. When the WFN Government commenced to build Lease To Own new homes on Falcon just down the street, we applied to their Allotment Commission, underwent their application process and were successful in achieving a new Lease To Own Allotment Home. The process is similar on my reserve.
The Allotment Lease To Own process is detailed. Both incomes are taken into account, bank statements, income tax returns, and tenant recommendations from landlords are required as part of the application package. The applicants must prove they have the ability to fulfill the terms of the debt, pay the mortgage and finance the upkeep of the new homes for the life of the mortgage. Upon successfully passing ‘Round 1’ of the Allotment process, as applicants we are required to attend a Home Ownership two-day program and sign a contract to accept the Allotment. This fulfills the requirements of the applicants. The Lease To Own contractual (mortgage) document is produced at the very end of the building processes, once the homes are completed and inspected. We signed the contractual mortgage document the day before we moved in.

The WFN Government plans and sets out Allotment lots for homes for its members. The Government’s Allotment Commission issues the lots. On April 27 2016 Mike and I received a letter from the WFN Government referring to the Falcon Lane Allotments, congratulating us on our successful application for Allotment home, inviting us to contact the housing department to discuss the process for and conditions associated with the Lease to Purchase Agreement. All new owners sign this Agreement. The letter of April 27, 2016 contemplates the completion of the process and sets out the further conditions to attend the two-day workshop and sign the contract. This contract indicated we would accept the Allotment and proceed toward the final Agreement. We completed both.

During the construction phase of our home, we met regularly with WFN’s ‘point person’, various sub-contractors and others working and concerned with the cluster of homes that were built under our Allotment phase. The WFN Government allowed for certain improvements and adjustments to the structural plan and we decided to make adjustments and upgrades that primarily had to be made during early construction. Any upgrades or adjustments to the original home plans are the responsibility of the owners and have to be paid upfront by the new owners. The adjustments/upgrades do not form part of the overall mortgage price for the homes negotiated with CMHC in the cluster build, or each owner’s particular home changes, and WFN Government is not a finance company. We were interested in making the upgrades as a prudent expense to keep the alteration costs low, rather than attempt to make changes after the home was built.

Our upgrades/alterations/improvements included moving laundry facilities upstairs to the main floor, water lines for a bathroom, setting in gas lines, setting a man door/concrete step at the garage, gas fittings to the kitchen stove, on demand hot water heating, etc. All these activities and improvements were important to make during the construction phase prior to the home’s finishes as most were behind walls or part of the infrastructure of the building. As the Lease To Own Housing Program does not include such alterations/improvements in the overall final price of the home and mortgage, we were required to pay for the improvements up front and promptly did. Mike and I also upgraded the appliances including purchasing a gas stove, water filtration system on the refrigerator, a quieter dishwasher and central air unit. We believed we would live out our retirement years in this home and prepared the home to work for us as we were aging.

My husband was a successful private commercial painting contractor and also a Director on WIBCO’s Board – WFN’s Government construction company, who was entrusted to build the cluster of New Lease To Own homes of which our home was one. Mike oversaw the build on our home personally as an owner concerned with the upgrades/adjustments/changes, professionally as a painting contractor painting the homes, and in his capacity as a Director to understand the projects WIBCO engaged. With the adjustments to the structural plans in our own home, he and I were regularly on the building site during the building phase, and as it was just steps away from the home we rented from WFN.

Title or Certificate of Possessions (CP’s) is not immediately issued to the owners on the new homes. The WFN Government issues CP’s/title when the mortgage debt is discharged, much like any mortgage at a bank clears a lien on a property through mortgage claim. On our Lease To Own Allotment home there is a five-year residency requirement prior to the owners being able to discharge the mortgage completely either by paying off the debt or refinancing with a private institution. My husband was interested in discharging the mortgage as soon as possible and raised the issue at the first information meeting, when all the new Allotment owners in our cluster joined to attend and receive information concerning details of our homes. At the same time owners began choosing all the homes’ interior finishes. Councilor Chris Derrickson told us then; new homeowners could not discharge the mortgage debt in the first five years as it affected the deal between WFN Government and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) financing rates. The former Chief Robert Louie in a meeting also later confirmed this fact with me. At such time after the five-year residency was fulfilled we could opt out of the WFN Government’s restrictions and opt out of any hold the Government claimed on the home title. Once paying off the mortgage, we would acquire a Certificate of Possession or outright title on the home. As Mike was the WFN band member on these reserve lands, the title would be issued to him. WFN Government has the legal right to strike this law, and we honoured it accordingly.

All Indians on all reserves are restricted through the Indian Act in so much as only band members can hold title on their respective reserves, regardless of whether or not a band has obtained self-government. As status Indians we are aware of the restrictions in the Act that limits Native married couples from different reserves, when we turn to hold ‘title’ or CP’s on our marital homes and properties. We are simply not afforded the same right or joint title to marital property on reserves as other couples enjoy off reserve. Aware of this restriction in the Act, and how WFN Government must also adhere, and as a means to work within the restriction, Mike knew his ‘blanket’ lease set in his will on his properties would include what he owned at the time or might own in the future as a means to protect me as his wife, if he died first. In this way Native people protect their partner’s ability to hold onto joint marital assets. Had Mike and I decided to live on my reserve, and engage in the Allotment Housing Program on Reserve, I would have struck the same lease in my own will, and in fact did to protect him.

It is well known that the WFN Government in their Self Government Agreement is required to honour the legal right band members have to strike leases on their property. CP title landowners/band members on WFN’s reserve lease a great deal of CP/title land. My husband exercised his legal right to grant his assets including his property through his instruction in his will and through his instruction of the lease to me. WFN’s own laws dictate they must uphold those measures and register the interests of those who have that claim via legal lease. Although WFN Government claims Self Government provides certainty in leases, they chose not to honour Mike’s lease, nor the Lease To Own Home Agreement my husband and I signed. WFN also has a law in Section 13.2 of their Housing Regulation that provides if there is a death of a Tenant during the term of the Lease To Purchase Agreement, and before the loan or mortgage has been discharged, they will agree to recognize the intent of the Lease by considering the deceased Tenant’s wishes in respect to their heirs. WFN chose not to do so.

Where this dispute became complicated is at the juncture between the five-year residency requirement and the issuance of the CP/title and the ‘meantime’ between the two. WFN Government essentially argued there was no evidence my husband died before the final discharge was made.

Although we are well aware the CP had to be issued to a WFN band member, our position in court was that the CP/title could easily be issued to children legally adopted by us, during our marriage, as they are WFN band members and can legally hold title. This meant we would meet the WFN legal requirements in landowner by members only. It also meant I would continue to live in our marital home, as I was permitted to do under the Lease and Option to Purchase Agreement that we signed which designated me as an approved occupant, fulfill the contractual obligations on the mortgage debt on behalf of my husband and myself and transfer the forthcoming CP title to our adopted children, once the five-year residency requirement was fulfilled. We also argued in court my husband had overseen the build, invested more than 20 thousand dollars during the build over and above the set price in the mortgage, signed all the paperwork to date, and set a lease provision in his will to protect it. It is quite rare members who enter into Lease To Own Agreement, turn and leave their homes without fulfilling the final requirements to own their homes. There is little reason not to choose owning a home rather than renting at the same cost, and is the primary reason the Allotment Program exists, as through ownership, owners can leverage their properties as assets, like anyone off reserve owning real estate can do. Other than issues such as poor health, divorce or relocation, members keep Allotment homes in their families. Had the WFN Government accepted this position and honoured Mike’s testamentary dispositions regarding the lease, acknowledged our 20 thousand dollar investment over and above the price of the home, and honoured our occupancy as his intended decision to stay and proceed through the five year residency requirement to CP/title (which they pose) the dispute would have never have gone to court. WFN essentially took the position Mike did not intend to own the house, as he died and did not proceed to the final paperwork at the end of the five-year residency requirement. WFN Government does not honour a member’s spouse.

On June 5 2018 we were advised by WFN Government that the Lease Option Agreement could not be transferred because the Property was WFN Community Property, even though we had successfully completed the Allotment process, oversaw the build, paid for the adjustments/changes in the building structure, upgraded the financial investment, moved in, signed the Lease to Own Agreement and paid the mortgage.

My husband and I both had children from former marriages. During our marriage we legally adopted his great nieces and nephew who were the grandchildren of his older sisters. At the time of their adoption Federal Indian Laws prevented those children from their Title and Rights to become WFN members. Even though the three children we adopted easily demonstrate their family ties through their bloodline and ancestral heritage in our family and to the Okanagan Nation, the Indian Act laws prevented their inclusion for their generation. To prevent their ancestral heritage to their own people from being legally lost, we legally adopted them and reinstated their Rights & Title and legal heritage. The children were accepted and registered as WFN band members. Recently Federal Indian Act laws have been challenged and changed and the children would now be able to return on their own under new Federal Law, had we not adopted them. As far as home ownership CP/ title transfer issue on our home, after my husband passed away, we put forward the children could hold legal title as WFN band members to our Home Allotment. My attorneys presented this information to the court as a means to meet WFN Government law concerning Right & Title ‘band membership only’ requirement on their lands. The children are healthy adults working and self-sufficient.
The WFN Government turned to argue in court our home was simply a ‘rental unit’ and under their own laws could not ‘rent’ to non-band members. They also claimed they “had graciously extended my stay by letting me live in our own marital home” for six months after my husband died, and as this dispute had yet to be resolved. I would suggest how this micro version brought forward sounds in the macro version had Canada conveyed to the Okanagan people they too “Are graciously letting you live on your own lands”. I would argue the Okanagan peoples’ response might well have been similar to mine.

As my lawyers attempted to communicate with the WFN Government prior to filing the court injunction to prevent the eviction, we were told WFN Government would not meet or discuss the issue and their ‘in camera’ Government decision had been made, was conclusive and could not be challenged. As my lawyers pressed for clarity for the reasoning behind their position, we received a letter from the WFN Government stating WFN Government had enacted the ‘frustration clause’ in our Allotment/Lease to Own Agreement. The frustration clause is a means for the WFN Government to claw back and seize homes where their owners have moved out without notice, abandoned homes, create criminal issues, become a neighbourhood nuisance, or refuse to pay for their homes and/or otherwise are not fulfilling the Agreement and are in default.

WFN Government claimed in their letter they were enacting the frustration clause because they did not receive notice, and as my husband had ‘abandoned the property’ at the time of his death. And, that our new home under the Allotment Lease to Own Agreement was simply a ‘rental’ unit and I would have to leave. The eviction letter was hand delivered by WFN’s Law Enforcement Agent and was to commence as of December 1st, giving me 3 months notice to vacate. As last Christmas was the first Christmas without my husband, it was an emotional time and the eviction notice came as quite a blow. This was the first time WFN Government officially informed me I was evicted, although their in house legal counsel Kevin Kingston casually conveyed it to my attorneys about six weeks after Mike died via an email. Mr. Kingston’s email was the Government’s response, after my lawyers attempted to register Mike’s lease in WFN’s Lands Department on our home.

My lawyers pressed the WFN Government again on their enactment of the ‘frustration clause’ and whereby they issued another letter informing us I had no right to dispute their decision and also “no right to court”, claiming their threat of eviction would stand and if I did not leave I would be “forcibly removed”. In addition the WFN Government stated they would contact me to ‘inspect our home’ whereby I would be charged for any damages, as the home was to be put back into the Allotment pool. As our home was new, there are no damages, other than typical homeowner changes such as; holes in walls to hang artwork, shelving units installed, and normal wear and tear. My lawyers responded in the court injunction petitioning the court for a ‘no contact’ order with me personally, in order that any contact forthcoming from WFN Government would have to be received through my attorneys. I could not fathom the further assault from WFN staff ‘wandering through my home to inspect’ and further invading my privacy in my home.

The sacrilege and nonsense in the WFN’s Government’s position of my dear husband’s abandonment through his death using the ‘frustration clause’ in the Agreement to a grieving family is ridiculous on so many fronts especially when you turn to realize as a government – when you set criteria for its citizens to fulfill, you must also set venue for it to be fulfilled. I think WFN Government’s position and following the interpretations may take eternity to figure out how to best receive notice from my husband in the Spirit World he had vacated, and would question any method a Government might employ in their offices to substantiate; Mike’s notice was capable of ever being received at the time of his death. The disrespect toward his death, by his own Self Governing First Nation Government was unconscionable. The WFN Government actions, behaviours, correspondence, decisions, invasion and attack were clearly a sacred affront.

Native people grieve just like anyone else by moving through grief at our own pace, using our traditions. We attempt our personal restoration with means that we each find personally comforting. We feel and respond to the overwhelming loss in life of our partners and spouses and loved ones in the privacy of our own home, in our own space and in peace. I intended to do the same. In those moments our homes become paramount to assisting us through the process.

WFN’s final notice to evict last December was immediately turned over to my attorneys, whereby I informed them I would need a couple of weeks in December to decide what to do next. In contemplating what I was facing, I knew there would be substantial emotional, energetic and legal costs to settle the dispute. As Native women we are culturally charged with maintaining Rights & Title on any matter with respect to our homes and families, and as Ojibwe women we are traditionally charged with upholding homestead, education, policy and law. Our men are culturally charged with provision and protection. As my husband fulfilled his obligations to provide and protect, and whereby my son has stepped in to do this in his absence, I knew my cultural, traditional, legal and marital obligation was to pursue the matter in court.

My attorneys were instructed about mid December 2018 to go ahead and file a legal injunction, as soon as possible, which they did, and began preparing over the Christmas holidays to take WFN Government to court. As any matters before a court takes time to prepare, my attorneys filed the petition on Feb 1 2019, submitting corresponding paperwork. WFN Government responded by requesting more time, hired attorneys from a law firm in Vancouver, and appealed to the court for a continuance. We granted WFN’s attorneys more time to prepare to respond to our court injunction, as a matter or courtesy, on condition no eviction would take place until the matter could be heard in court. I believe this was an act to increase my legal fees, as it meant going to court prior to hearing the matter heard by the court.

As my husband and I formerly lived just down the street in WFN’s rental unit for more than 10 years, and then opted to engage in the Lease To Own formal process to own our home, we clearly understood the vast difference and process in the two housing options. WFN’s rental units are a month-to-month basis similar to other rental units anywhere, whereby the landlord is responsible for repairs, debts, upkeep etc. No Title or Certificate of Possessions are ever issued, nor can be obtained by the tenant. In the Lease To Own home ownership scenario we are responsible for repairs, upkeep, and discharging the debt through mortgage payments that lead to title or Certificate of Possession. Once CP’s are obtained when the debt is discharged the owners have the ability to sell or lease the same property, as they may desire. The Housing Allotment program is designed to help create wealth for Native people across Canada, by owning their own homes on reserve. By virtue of the fact people undertake and engage in the Allotment program speaks to their testament and intention to own the home. WFN Government took the position our home was simply a ‘rental unit’ and because Mike did not live long enough after we moved into our home, fulfilling the five year Allotment residency requirement, and that they (WFN) had no way of knowing if he intended to own the home. As Mike did not exercise the ‘option to purchase’, required at the end of the five-year tenancy requirement to discharge the mortgage. Mike could not sign the document to complete the final stage of the Allotment process because it was withheld by the Government and would not be produced by WFN Government until the end of the five years.

The simple act WFN Government has the discretionary powers to withhold the final home ownership CP/title document from its home owners for five years, creates the field of jeopardy for all Allotment home owners, whereby WFN Government has the ‘window of authority’ to seize, deny occupancy, and forcibly remove owners from their homes. This authority to seize also extends to current WFN band members, as it did to my husband Mike. It is important to note; this field of jeopardy is entirely based on WFN Government’s self-serving financial interest in their housing deal with CMHC, at the expense of its members. Judge Hori upheld WFN Government legal ability to do so, as they are ‘self governing’ regardless of whether or not it right or proper to do so.

As Judge Hori’s decision currently stands, WFN members should be informed they too have entered into this field of jeopardy and are at the mercy of a Government who may or may not interpret the balance of interest in a member’s favour. As WFN Government chose to balance the interest in their Corporate favour in my husband’s case, and as one of their own Elders, I would pose in all likelihood WFN Government does neither honour their members, their interests, or their member Elders as this case and their position clearly demonstrated. By enacting WFN Government ‘frustration clause’ to deny my husband’s ownership of his own home, evict me, and the sacred affront they put forward in their definition, also speaks to their ability to pretty much do as they please, without accountability, knowledge or consent from their own members. I am certain WFN band members and membership would not uphold any argument whereby they would entrust their government to have the power to insist those who pass on to the Spirit World must notify their Corporation, and otherwise suffer the consequences if they fail to do so. That argument put forward by WFN Government is so silly and sacral-religious it hardly requires the dignity of a responsible response, unless it means a Government is seizing your home.

WFN Government choose to ignore the fact or interpret Mike’s substantial financial investment of 20 thousand dollars over the original price of the home, our signatures to the early documents accepting the Allotment, all WFN’s requirements in the Allotment process with their set meeting requirements and paperwork, our signatures to the Mortgage document upon moving in, our time and attention to oversee the build, make structural changes, and Mike’s attention to transfer our marital property by lease set in his will.

Throughout this dispute I continued to meet the monthly mortgage payments by setting 12 (annual) postdated monthly mortgage cheques payable to WFN, of which the balance of my cheques for the mortgage for this year for 2019 are still held in WFN’s offices, and have yet to be returned. The structural upgrades made to our home have also not been returned.

My husband had experience with WFN Allotment Housing programs. He had formerly applied for a WFN Allotment home, in his former marriage, about 40 years earlier and obtained a home for his family, where they still live. In his divorce settlement his Non-Native ex-wife obtained CP/title on the home. She is legally a WFN band member and Status Indian, but has no ancestral Indian or Okanagan heritage. At that time the Indian Act extended Rights & Title to Non Native women who ‘married in’. I have never formerly extended my treaty right to apply or obtain an Allotment home on reserve until now and have in fact had my Rights recede on WFN lands.

This issue of Non Natives with status and band membership and their ability to hold CP/title is fast becoming a ‘hot’ issue across many reserves in Canada and has resulted in some reserves and Nations expelling Non Native people who hold legal Indian status. As WFN argued in court my home was needed for those awaiting homes on their housing list, the issue of heritage, ancestral linage and authentic Right and Title ‘to be’ live, or hold title to land and property will continue to grow. My court challenge toward WFN Government is in no way an attack on those who received their Indian status or band membership by former Federal Indian Act Law. They were clearly acting within current law. Although this issue has nothing with do with my current legal challenge with WFN Government over our home and seizure, it speaks to the issues First Nations people face when dealing with Governments over the long term, how we choose or are forced to define our families, and how we are constantly required to challenge Governments with their laws. It also speaks to how Native people may perceive Governments as not necessarily a high undisputable authority or operating with impeccable/credible standard.

Even as WFN turns to put their Self Government into practice, our history advises us to ‘keep watch’ and ensure that any Government creating laws are doing so in ways that actually serve its citizens well. My husband and I both believed ‘keeping watch’ and active engagement was the duty of prudent Native and Non Native citizenship, and that standing back in cowardice, refusing to challenge and complaining is not a means to create positive change. My husband clearly demonstrated his truth and dedication to this thinking through his former military service, active engagement in WFN’s treaty negotiations and through his direct and key participation in obtaining WFN’s Self Government Agreement. His WFN awards in Self Government also speak to the same. He also believed Native people had to be good neighbours. His participation as a former Director on the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the Westbank Chamber of Commerce, and through his successful business built bridges. I believe the legal challenge I posed to WFN Government is an act of fulfilling good citizenship toward any government be it First Nations or otherwise, and would encourage anyone to do the same, when a Government takes action to deny occupancy, seize our homes, and come forward to forcibly remove people. For First Nations people, this scenario is unfortunately all too historically familiar.

As far as the WFN’s Government’s written statement in their letter “I had no right to court” as an official position is a postured lie to cover up WFN Government actions and legal responsibilities and liabilities as a legitimate First Nations Government charged to convey truth and serve. Government claims made in writing to ‘no right to court’ are a direct assertion to distort, run, bluff, bully whereby WFN’s Government actions should greatly concern members, leasehold partners and other government entities doing business with WFN Government. Every citizen in Canada, Native or Non Native has the right to court to settle dispute. WFN Government might benefit from remembering and reviewing the political reversal in law of Canada, in the early 1960’s when the Federal Government realized they must reverse their legislated denial to court to Native people, in access to voice, law, justice and court, and wherein National Aboriginal Discussions at General Assembly turned and collectively dismantled barbaric law. As a Government WFN may benefit from realizing other governmental errors when they turn to compare their written stance in correspondence to me, was a horrifying similar parallel to the oppressive manner by which Canada operated legally, prior to being forced to change. I seriously doubt the AFN would uphold their position whereby WFN Government advises any counterpart has “no right to court” or to challenge their decisions, as any Government is entrusted to serve their public. Even First Nations Self Governments are legally required to uphold Canada’s Constitutional Law within their Self Government Agreement and as citizens we must hold them accountable for their actions.

I would further suggest WFN Government law has set a dangerous precedent for their members and families by undermining how individuals determine their own personal affairs. Justice Hori recognizes in his judgment that some of the issues I raise are “neither frivolous nor vexatious” when we turn to examine the housing issues between married partners from different Native Nations, and the confusion in the laws that bounce between the Indian Act, Native Self Government, Marital Rights, Testamentary Wishes, Treaty Rights and the rights of all citizens under Canada’s Constitution, including discrimination or malice and the right to reside in peace.

WFN’ Government responded to me in attitude as a secular threatened institution, posing to ‘know better’, flexing their muscle as a self-governing Chief & Council without providing any means for discussion, dispute, transparency, reconciliation, restitution or solution. This is a derogatory concept, most familiar to Native people who through our common history take the similarity, linkage and imitation of the action, immediately to imposed Federal Government Residential School and the familiar threat: to separate, exclude, set social class and stratification via membership for those who are either ‘in or out’, based on egotistical, political, historical and ethical values/flaws/laws of the day that strip people. I would propose to WFN Government; their own people and other Native people across Canada might best be served by working together to resolve the VOID for Native married couples across Canada, and act in a leadership role to solve this problem and hold our governments accountable to do so. I am certain as we move away from the former Federal legislation under the Indian Act that formerly prevented us from leaving the reserve, and, as we now move freely across Canada and the rest of the world, it is most likely Native people will continue to marry others, from other Native Nations. In that sense this problem needs solving, as it will continue to grow.

WFN Government might well be advised to remember the Council of the Three Fires Confederacy – the oldest Confederacy in the World, still in existence today in Canada and the USA of which the Anishnaaube Collective Seven Generation Principle flows – a succinct long term strategy setting the positive in direction, by which the Okanagan people have wisely borrowed from the Ojibwe, Odawa, Pottawatomi, Chippewa, Oji-Cree and Haudenosaunee. It is honoured, kept alive and carried forward in full view, each time you pau wau (powwow) and view the jingle dance. The WFN Government might best be advised each time you step foot in Our Territory, when you visit Toronto, Ottawa or New York, you are there freely because Anishnaaube Three Fires and Haudenosaunee ensured you could be, and that all the respect you might hope for is present. You are well advised to recognize, that the Haudenosaunee also respect and align with Three Fires, in day to day business, through our own International Treaty with one another, our provincial territorial organizations, their Great Law of Peace, our intermarriages, alliances and family ties and through the powerful rock solid platform of NATIVE SHARING. The illusion of scarcity is not one found in powerful Nations, because we inherently realize there is plenty of good to go around, and more good grows better and faster when we combine our efforts and cooperate. That is the basic principle underlying consensus and its powerful outcomes.

WFN Government your problem is not that you aim too high and fail as I did; rather you aim too low and succeed. Had my court challenge succeeded it would have cemented the rights and title of WFN’s own band members who are in housing Allotment, and removed the field of jeopardy band members now are in with their own Corporation and Government. WFN Government now can easily seize their properties too – depending on how WFN Government chooses to define a ‘frustration clause’. None of us realized that power and field of jeopardy existed, nor would be exercised by any Government, and as my husband trusted his own government to act in his interest, I would suggest most other band members do too. Let’s hope WFN Government does not decide to do the same to you, as they now have the legal authority to do so and it is entrenched by the Supreme Court of BC.

WFN Government what you have ignored and withheld and upheld is precisely what is missing. By limiting rights, title and self-determination to yourselves alone for your Government Corporation, and restricting others by holding their rights apart, you retract and reduce self-determination to your own small table. I would refer you to the Anishnaaube and Haudenosaunee, signatories to Our Jay Treaty, whereby we insist it apply to all Aboriginal people throughout Canada, and by which the Okanagan people have come to use freely, enjoy and benefit as a result of our efforts. I would also refer you to The Friendship Treaty, The Two Row Wampum Treaty and the Royal Proclamation principles of which Okanagan people also benefit – who were never signatories to their International Spirit, ideas, wisdom or its movement and underlying basis, and how it is shared. You must come to realize, any advances in Okanagan self sovereignty has not been due to your efforts alone, rather was built and rests on the cumulative cooperative knowledge and wisdom of people who envisioned a complete and inclusive Circle – as a strategic approach to living in a higher form without struggle. And, that in the Oneness we understand equal does not mean identical. We recognize the horror in assimilation and its counterpart – rejection. This is a basic premise of good will, self-sovereignty, alliance and solidarity – respect, recognition and inclusion, along with tolerance and welcoming of differences.

WFN Government you have violated cultural progress in Indigenous and UN Law for women, and now Native men, and you imitate and uphold colonial oppressive government models of power over, rather than power with. And you have done all this with a mere cursory glance and denial to your own inherent inner Native guidance that informs you: self-determination and self-government – individual sovereignty and the right to manage our own affairs with all the respect accorded belongs to everyone.

My husband Mike worked on WFN’s Self Government Agreement for 10 years until such time as Parliament set it law. He then retired from his work with WFN. He wholeheartedly believed that efforts in self-determination and self-government were designed to eliminate – apathy, apartheid, pathological narcissistic abuse, exclusion, discrimination, hopelessness, indifference, separation, disrespect and abuse of power, authority and control in the hands of the few. Self-Government for Native people is designed to improve past Government horrors and lead us to live and work with Governments who remove those lower dark energies from our Natural World. Good Government and Good Self Government in Native communities inspire collective participation, good faith and well being in the personal lives of its citizens, families and neighbours because it is charged to act in service.

I am ashamed of WFN’s Governmental actions and decisions as another senior Native person viewing their antics. As you have attacked Indigenous cultural law, and cemented your position now in law you violate my trust. Any approach forthcoming to restore harmony must be fueled with respect when dealing with me, as Eagle Clan Treaty Indian Woman, from a traditional hereditary line of leadership, in membership with a powerful Nation that upholds and champions First Nation honest collective values. As one of your contemporaries you must come forward with respect to receive respect and consider what you have done to so many. You must realize your attitude is a cultural and legal assault to your own membership, and you have denied an Indian veteran’s wife and Indian veterans daughter, who joined in covenant with an Okanagan man in long term marriage, and who holds all the sovereign Right and Title that is God Given to us both respectively, individually and collectively, through our ancestral linage, inheritance, treaty, alliances and marital union, with all the protection guaranteed to us in the Constitution. You must realize how the Indian Act and your own Self Governing Laws now prevent us from enjoying the same legal and ethical rights of those living off reserve, and how the VOID is in part a means to deIndianize and separate. In future you must decide what seat you will sit in that Constitutional Challenge, and if you will uphold a standard of ‘lesser than’, what a rise in acceptable standard has come to be.

In my opinion the WFN Government position and behaviours throughout this process have darkened the strength and real true Spirit in WFN’s Self Government Agreement and advances by which the Great Okanagan People including my deceased husband intended it to flow, care and protect. I have also yet to see how WFN Government and their legal elected representatives will turn to explain how they denied to uphold how their own member defined and self-determined his own personal affairs as their Elder, in our Lease To Own Home. We will see how his Government carries forward representing him and otherwise explain why they didn’t. I will await the see how Title and Rights actually flow here on the Westbank Indian Reserve, as will other Native people across Canada. Our Nations, Governments and people will ultimately judge both our actions. And our Native scholars will certainly easily identify the elite parallels from our oppressive history with Canadian Governments. I would pose a challenge to WFN Government to uphold my husband’s interests as one of their own band members, and a member’s subsequent personal decision to flow his assets to me personally as his Native wife, and carry forward your job to represent him, just as I am doing.

As a result of Justice Hori’s decision, whereby WFN’s ownership of our marital home was seized by the Government, I must honour Justice Hori’s decision for the moment and leave our home on the one-year anniversary of the date of my husband’s death. There are still more legal questions to resolve as Justice Hori did acknowledge certain questions remain eligible to be tried in court in the future, and all decisions are eligible for appeal. This temporary legal and binding decision affects every Native person living on reserve with Allotment Housing across Canada; both to WFN’s own members in Allotment and other Native people from all bands. Justice Hori granted dangerous powers to any Government who does not act in transparency or in the best interest of their own individual members. I also expect CMHC and Indian Affairs will be invited into the issue at a national level.

WFN Government your principle attitude has set up a David and Goliath example, whereby your threat and roar in seizure and forcible removal, rather than being feared, is too big a target to ignore or miss. I expect Native people will do what we have always done; see this challenge as opportunity and turn and dismantle what needs to change.

I pose an easy solution might be: Your Nation face My Nation in discussion at National General Assembly bringing forward all the legal, moral, traditional, historical and ethical facts concerning how Native Nations view occupancy, seizure, and forcible removal. We can then move that discussion into contract and marriage, how we self-determine our families, along with Aboriginal Right and Title and Treaty, and your Government’s position on a Native man and woman who live in marriage on any reserve and share in mutual property, and finally arrive at an enlightening conclusive decision using General Assembly as final Arbitrator. Bring your dangerous perpetrators with you, as they will be taught what Rights and Title really mean and how we demand those same values operate and permeate into our Corporations and Governments. I would expect the thousands of married couples this decision affects might have a great deal to say in response to challenge your stand. And, that your use and position in principle in the denial of occupancy and promotion of seizure and forcible removal may in fact ultimately be used against you and, hinder any progress you make for your own people in your future treaty negotiations, unless your intention is to agree with historical oppression and join with others to lose our National Native interests and set us back. Keep watch on your Title and Rights Office as they are clearly culturally unaware they are in the business of entering a powerful ‘true sore spot’ in Native people who react angrily as you ‘poke the bear’, as your WFN Government has chosen to deny occupancy and promote seizure and forcible removal, without access to court. That bell once rung cannot be quieted in Native Country. The only difference this time - it is coming from a Government within.

WFN Government you have created a legal Government force and what you have set in motion is a natural strong cultural First Nations counterforce. Please understand Native people have long history, talent, sophistication and experience entrenched in us to challenge you as a Government – particularly those of us who hold Treaty and/or our Chiefs and Elders who uphold hereditary wisdom. We are your worthy opponents.

I am well aware, raised in and come from a place knowing full well; what and how Native people feel, once they establish their families and homes, about what they occupy, and the lengths they will go to protect the same, and how this micro version will influence the macro version in our future negotiations at National Reconciliation Tables. WFN Government by taking a stand to deny occupancy, promote seizure and forcible removal it may be best if you miss future negotiations in National Reconciliation because we will simply not know what to do with your New Self Government position nor what side of the table to seat you.

WFN Government I am proud I stood up to you, and forced you into court, and I will never be sorry an attempt was made to right this wrong on my husband’s behalf and on the behalf of the people he loved as his fellow WFN band members.

I am proud of my attorneys Gary Benson and his associates, Terry McCaffery, Michael Hansen and Lindsay Friesen for their sincere interest and 10 months of dedicated effort to prepare, argue, stand and litigate advancing Native Rights and Title for Native married couples living on reserves across Canada. Rather than opposing Native Rights & Title as WFN Government did, Benson Law proceeded to expose a void, extend and expand those Rights-In-Practice through efforts made in court. We are not finished yet. Hopefully Native people are never finished.

I am particularly proud of my son Rob for his love, strength, courage and encouragement from the onset, as a strong healthy Native man providing and protecting his mother, his assistance with legal fees and concern to protect his step father’s property, Rights and Title, our Treaty Rights and our subsequent common marital/family interests, and for my adopted Okanagan WFN daughter Rachelle who continues to come forward to help.

There has been an outpouring of support from my own Chief & Council at Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation. In particular ongoing communication, advice and support from Chief Patsy Corbiere and her interest to inform our Anishnaaube Grand Council and Grand Chief and to the other Chiefs in our Confederacy and Alliances. There has also been an outpouring of support from others who knew Mike and I well, and I want to sincerely thank you. To my dear Medicine/Anishnaaube friend; Bob Peters, whose traditional Indian medicines are nothing short of remarkable –Anaaii and Miigwetch.

Finally to those of you who claim the ‘knowledge’ ‘right’ or ‘power’ to barge into our marriage, our relationship as husband and wife and our personal decisions, while you chat without facts through online forums, and as you act and claim ‘authority’ to discuss or sit in judgment, you are operating in illusion with a false sense of entitlement and invitation to our marriage and affairs, ownership in it, or power over it. You might best be served by attending to your own marital relationships and affairs making them perfect, and turn your attention to the larger issues at hand that affect us all in the Collective.

Native people are not victims. We have however suffered at great lengths at the hand of Government oppression and all its results. We are born with our own sense of inner guidance, self-determination and personal power. We know what feels right in truth. We are graced with the knowledge and wisdom of our Creator and His Divine Powerful Agents – our Ancestors, Elders and Medicines and their longstanding teachings, traditions and legacy, of which my dear husband is now One. We can only be victimized when we are tormented, and accept the behaviours and actions of the tormentor; sit do nothing, and accept that as our identity and destiny. We have all the power we need to enact great change and turn and lead toward that end. That takes us right smack dab into the powerful Collective and how we revere the sanctity and power of that God Given Brilliant Indigenous Approach to justice and fairness together, and Interrelationship to All Things, so inherent in our heartbeats. We only have to turn to the likes of Jody Wilson-Raybould and her recent model and current powerful example for the type of Native moral fortitude, courage, collective interest and humble strength of character, Jody so graciously displayed for us all – and take notice of how her following is growing in leaps and bounds. This is Natural Law shown. It is time. Thank you Jody your concurrent Federal government challenge and honest actions personally mentored me through this most difficult experience without my dear husband, who remains to be deeply missed. And to Jody’s husband Tim who remains to be a long-term friend to our family, I hope you both continue to inspire us.


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