Money and Power: Why a band council in B.C. wants to keep their extended family in exile - APTN NewsAPTN News

Money and Power: Why a band council in B.C. wants to keep their extended family in exile

An aerial view of Peters First Nation in British Columbia.

Kenneth Jackson
A band council in British Columbia is trying to keep extended family from becoming members of the community because it fears having to share its pipeline money, according to Federal Court documents.

New members could also drastically change band elections that are already razor thin in favour of the current council.

That’s why the band council of Peters First Nation is asking the Federal Court to rule against allowing three people, who have status through Peters, to become members of the band.

They are also cousins of members of the band council.

The band council argues the three are just the “tip of the iceberg” as dozens more lay in wait to be members of the small reserve about two hours east of Vancouver between Hope and Chilliwack on Hwy. 1.

“It would mean that any monies received from the use of Peters reserve lands, such as the Trans Mountain pipeline, would have to be shared with a large (number) of people who do not live on, and have no, or very little, connection to the reserve,” the band council states.

All the people, about 60 or more, share the same bloodlines as the three-person council of Chief Norma Webb, Coun. Victoria Peters and Coun. David Peters.

The two councillor positions were decided by two votes and chief by four votes in the last election.

Just the group of three could partially achieve a change in power. But if the others, who are scattered all along the Fraser Valley, were to become members then the current council could be voted out.

“This would almost certainly have a dramatic effect on the governance of Peters,” council argues.

Victoria Peters, who has several jobs besides being a longtime councillor, including the band manager, health director and book keeper, stated in an affidavit that they will be “swamped with new members”.

“Those people would be a great burden to Peters who has very limited resources and no land for them to live on,” stated Victoria Peters.

What is a natural child?

Over 1,000 pages of evidence and arguments were filed in Federal Court in November to essentially answer one question: What is a natural child?

Peters controls its own membership as a Section 10 band, after the former Indian Affairs department approved a membership code in 1987.

In depth: Promise to dying mother sees daughter take on ‘rigged’ band council to bring her family home

The custom code lists several ways one can be a member, including the natural child rule which states: Everyone who is a natural child of a parent whose name is registered on the Band list.

But the band council has determined that to be anyone under the age of 18. If someone is an adult, despite their parent being a member, they are not automatically members.

That was its reasoning behind rejecting the membership applications last year of Guy Peters, 52, Brandon Engstrom, 26, and Amber Ragan, 21.

They filed for a judicial review as a group in December 2016.

Guy Peters, left, and his father Robert Peters walk along Robert’s driveway on Peters First Nation. Luke Smith/APTN photo

APTN News has been following the membership battle since January and this is the first time the band council’s position has been made public, despite repeated requests from APTN for comment.

While this case has made its way through the courts, the RCMP has launched an investigation into band council for alleged misappropriation of funds and KPMG started a financial review last May following reports by APTN.

APTN reported that over 90 per cent of all funds allocated to band members went to those who vote for council.

Related: APTN opens the books on Peters reserve, finds questionable payments, INAC’s role in question

Guy Peters’ father is Robert Peters who is a lifelong member and one of the elders. Guy Peters’ brother, Dwayne Peters is also a member and the father of Engstrom and Ragan.

They have not asked for land as part of their case, but say they can inherit land from Robert Peters but first they need to be members.

“As the Applicants met the automatic criteria for membership, the Band Council’s Decision to reject the Applicants’ membership applications was an error of law,” they argue.

The band council argues it is allowed to make its own interpretation of the natural child rule.

However, the code doesn’t specify an age requirement. It does state that if the band council wants to amend the code it needs three quarters of the band membership to do so.

Since 1990, there have been no changes to the code.

“The scheme of the Membership Code supports the Applicants position that the Band Council has no discretion to apply other criteria. Under the Code, Band Council cannot change the Membership Criteria without community approval,” the applicants argue.

“In rejecting the Applicants’ membership applications, the Band Council acted outside its authority by disregarding the membership criteria set out in the Membership Code and applying its own membership criteria.”

The band council argues their rational of the natural child rule is “reasonable.”

“This is consistent with the practice observed by the Respondents and reasonable given the possible consequences,” the council wrote.

The consequences involve the loss of land, money and, potentially, power.

It’s not about land, but acceptance.

In 2012, more than 60 people applied to be members and most of them have status through Peters, like the group of three.

Not one was accepted.

Related: Elder died wanting to be member of reserve she was born on

Besides the group of three there are another nine with membership applications currently waiting for a decision by the band council.

One of those people is Carol Raymond.

Raymond’s father, Joseph Lorezetto, is buried in the cemetery on Peters, as is his mother and grandparents.

“I just want to be accepted,” Raymond, 74, told APTN in February. “If I am only recognized as who I am, that has always been my thing.”

She also has not asked for land and said she made it clear she will not.

Carol Raymond fights tears trying to explain what it means to be excluded from Peters First Nation where her family is buried.

But there is also the wife and children of Edward Peters, 75, the oldest member of Peters. The band council has refused to accept his family as members.

Edward Peters has land but can’t leave it to his children because they are not members.

The group of three hope to change that.

“The Band Council did not review the Applications in good faith but have instead focused on advancing their own interests,” the applicants argue.

A hearing is expected to be scheduled in the New Year.

“This is not a hard case,” the applicants say.

APTN’s complete archive on Peters First Nation can be found here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “Money and Power: Why a band council in B.C. wants to keep their extended family in exile”

    deanna white December 16, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    you know, every RESERVE has this problem,but this is the only one MAKING NEWS. I can’t believe they are worried about MONEY .. they will get there just REWARD …

    Candice Hall December 15, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

    Absolutely disgraceful Chief and Council!! Disgusting to treat your own people this way for your gain alone…get them all out of office period! Disgusted from BC!!

    Carol December 14, 2017 at 11:24 pm #

    Have to wonder when will this end!
    I have been waiting over a year for an answer to my request for membership! My sister never even received a reply to her application which she sent by registered mail last spring.
    I answered all questions at my interview was to learn of decision in 2 weeks when 2weeks came and then a month I called Victoria Peters who said they were still investigating me. .. they had my birth certificate status card # my father Joe Lorenzetto’s info and then needed more info as my Dad death certificate maybe picture of his grave! Which they could see if they stopped at graveyRd they drive past daily.
    At the time of my call the chief and council were involved in court case so that was latest excuse to busy!

      Darryl Kipp December 14, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

      So, in over a year they never contacted you to tell you that you are “too old to apply”?

      And when you applied, they never told you not to bother?

      And you’ve waited (this time) for over a year to hear about this from the news rather than from the Chief and Council?

      To the Chief and Council of Peters First Nation: Carol Raymond is an Elder with undeniable ancestry tied directly to the Nation you presume to represent. You are a disgrace.

      Hang in there, Carol.

      It’s only a matter of time.

        Carol December 18, 2017 at 4:18 am #

        Not a word , I had to contact them and now many months later still heard anything from them!
        As for the age to apply at 2 meetingnot a word about that having to applied to late .
        The funny thing is if that was the age I would have still been a member!!

        Margery Loverin December 24, 2017 at 4:06 am #

        Since when does age has a play in who you are and where you come from??? If you come from a band of people naturally you are a member of that band, usually. Our Elders always said “Remember who you are and where you come from” this is wrong unless they know something more than they are claiming. It’s scary when your own people refuse you as their member, you have a right to be a member of a band you were born into, you are a natural member no adoption etc.

      lorraine wood December 18, 2017 at 4:01 am #

      I think your mom s other children have their membership to there