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BMAAAC: A new look into Indigenous Governance

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Chiefs and councils across the country may never have heard of the Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (“BMAAAC” pronounced “bee mack”), but chances are, BMAAAC is already in their communities. BMAAAC was borne out of a spiritual awakening by its president, Rob Louie, and his vision for setting the stage for lively showdowns with Indigenous leaders that think they are above the law. It is a newly created national, non-profit organization that helps band members to get access to justice to hold their chief and council accountable. Such an organization that does not charge a fee for its services has never existed in Canada—until now.

BMAAAC is off to a strong start. In the past month, BMAAAC’s lawyers filed in the BC Supreme Court and in the Federal Court for band members in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. In one case, BMAAAC retained the legal services of Vancouver law firm Mackenzie Fujisawa LLP to help a BC band member get his per capita payment that chief and council withheld from him. In other cases, BMAAAC retained Edmonton law firm Parlee McClaws LLP to help band members challenge their chief and council’s decision to postpone band elections.

BMAAAC was also an intervenor the recent Bertrand court case where a federal court judge will rule on the validity of federal regulations that permit chief and council to postpone band election. BMAAAC argued in the federal court on March 22nd that the rights of band members are at stake, and therefore, a chief and council have a duty to consult its membership before making a decision to postpone a band election.

Band councillors have also reached out to BMAAAC when they have been wrongfully removed from the band council. Ontario Aboriginal lawyer Keith Gordon recently partnered with BMAAAC to help a BC band councillor get her official privileges restored. BMAAAC has helped band councillors challenge the lawfulness of their chief’s decision-making.

One of BMAAAC’s high profile cases is Big River First Nation in Saskatchewan where allegations against the Big River FN chief include misappropriation of $353,000.00 with part that money going towards the chief’s customized truck and a second home with customized kitchen cupboards and heated flooring. BMAAAC has retained Edmonton lawyer, Evan Duffy. Mr. Duffy will represent Sandra Bear, a member of Big River First Nation. “Something has to be done; we can’t let him get away with this”, said Sandra Bear. A demand letter that was issued to the chief that gabe him until April 20, 2021 to repay the money, or else face legal action. In light of the financial mismanagement, a petition signed by over 300 Big River members is calling on their chief to step down. The Buffalo Tribune reached out to him for comment and received no response.

BMAAAC president, Rob Louie, is from the Kootenay Nation in BC. He was the litigation strategist in the landmark Louie v. Louie court case that set a precedent that chief and council cannot arbitrarily award themselves bonuses. He is currently pursuing a masters in law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and is also a proud member of the recovery community. “A cornerstone of recovery is giving back, and through BMAAAC, I am able to give back so freely what was given to me.” To those chiefs that are unsure how to make amends to their communities, Louie added, “I am all about second chances, because I was given a second chance. If a chief recognizes that they are doing something that they shouldn’t, it’s never too late to turn it around. Just ask yourself, are you helping or hurting?” Louie’s rehabilitation from substance abuse has now opened the door for him to return to practice law this Summer. He intends to phase himself in as BMAAAC’s in-house legal counsel. Louie and his board of directors will continue to advocate for band members that are at odds with their leadership. You can find more about BMAAAC by visiting their website here.

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