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Group hopes to force Chief facing sexual assault charges to resign

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor ALEXANDER FIRST NATION







September 14, 2016.

The spokeswoman for the Alexander Women Warriors hopes that the silent majority will join in tomorrow when the group takes to the streets in an attempt to force the resignation of Alexander First Nation Chief Kurt Burnstick.

“We’re hoping to garner more strength,” said Janet Campbell. “We’re hoping that our rally will give them courage to come and stand with us and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

After Burnstick was charged by the RCMP Sept. 2 with two counts of sexual assault and one count of break and enter from incidences that occurred in 1985, the small group of women decided they needed to act.

In March, Burnstick was charged with assault after RCMP investigated an incident that occurred in December 2015. That charge was followed by council declaring a media blackout accusing media of bias.

However, that blackout was rescinded in a band council resolution on Sept. 6, which stated that the blackout had been invoked “without proper legal advice.” The resolution passed by a four to three vote. Burnstick was joined in opposing the resolution by Councillors Edwin Paul and Audra Arcand.

“It is a concern,” said Campbell. “On behalf of the women’s group, we are dismayed that the only woman councillor is backing the individual who has done so much damage.”

Also a concern, she says, is having Burnstick represent the First Nation at events as well as speaking out at rallies on violence against women.

“This is a national problem. I want the Chiefs across Canada to know that this is happening and you guys can’t be embracing this Chief when he’s the very epitome of things you are trying to deal with,” she said.

Campbell says Alexander Women Warriors are hoping this rally will force Burnstick to resign and pressure council to take a stand. If neither happens, Campbell says, she sees “things getting really, really ugly.”

Already Cheryl Savoie, the first spokesperson for Alexander Women Warriors, was let go from her senior position of economic development director. Savoie spoke out in favour of the woman, whose allegations resulted in the first charge being brought against Burnstick.

Campbell says she’s also had to face harassment both in the community and on social media.

“A lot of stuff has been happening but behind the scenes,” said Campbell.

The rally is planned for Thursday morning at the community hall. Media has been invited.

Burnstick is scheduled to make a first appearance on the new charges on Oct. 18 in court in Morinville.

A trial for the charges relating to the 2015 incident is scheduled for January 2017 in St. Albert.