From thechronicleherald.ca link to article by Tim Jaques, 23 Feb 2018
The chief councillor of Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation says that she has decided not to take legal action as a result of her brief suspension from band council late last year, but hopes to run for chief this spring.
Cathy Martin initially was suspended for three months by Listuguj’s band council in November for posts to Facebook she made about a business deal between the band and Zenabis, a cannabis producer in Atholville. The suspension was soon lifted, however.
A news release from Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government, posted on its website, dated Dec. 1, stated Martin’s suspension was imposed “as a protective measure” under the its code of conduct, but it was lifted so that the band council could pursue “an independent inquiry” into the matter.
A chief councillor’s position on a band council is similar to that of a deputy mayor on a municipal council. She was suspended at a meeting she said she could not attend, as she was away on band business. She refused to take down her Facebook posts and videos.
Martin said that the action taken against her was not in accordance with federal law, and sought legal advice. However, she has since decided she does not want to take any legal action in the matter.
“I just don’t want to focus my energy on that right now,” she said in a telephone interview, adding that such a dispute would “rehash old crap” and would not be productive for her or for Listuguj in general.
She got a great deal of community support over the matter, she said.
“I still hear about it on a daily basis,” she said.
“I feel that we have so many battles to deal with when it comes to the federal and provincial governments that we shouldn’t be spending our energy fighting each other.”
Martin said it doesn’t mean there are “amicable relationships” between herself and some councillors right now, “but that is how I chose to redirect my energy.”
Although Chief Darcy Gray said in a telephone interview that the inquiry was “progressing” and he hoped it would be concluded “amicably”, Martin said she feels the ongoing inquiry is meant to defend past actions at the band’s expense.
In any event, Martin’s plan is to run for chief in this spring’s election. She also hopes to have a team to run with her that agrees with her vision.
She says she has been doing “a lot of kitchen table discussions in the community.”
“We need to redirect so everyone is going in the same direction,” she said.
She intends to meet with members of the community about their concerns, and will have a platform ready for when she runs which she will put forth on social media. At this point, the Zenabis matter that led to the initial squabble is likely to be issue in the upcoming election.
“It is not about what I want. It is what the council wants, based on what the people want.”
Listuguj loaned Zenabis $3 million in 2016 as a convertible debenture, which means that the loan could be converted into equity in the company. The council is considering making that conversion. In late January, a release on the LMG website indicated that it was proceeding to further investigate such a conversion.
At the council table and on her Facebook posts, Martin argued that the matter needed deeper community consultation.
A community meeting was in fact held on the matter, which Martin believes showed people had “a lot of concern regarding this conversion.”
She said she is concerned the cannabis market may become saturated quickly, and will affect profit. Also, the shares will be in a private company, and she doesn’t believe the band will be able to sell the shares in the open market should it want to do so later.
She also wonders how much money the community would see out of the shares compared to just getting the loan paid back. She said that her concern is that Listuguj may not see a payback on its shares for years, and it may be better if the loan were just paid back and Listuguj spent its money elsewhere.
Martin said that the factory sits on traditional Mi’gmaq territory – there was once a Mi’gmaq village on the site – and that should be taken into account in negotiations.
“That should not be overlooked, and we should have a say in the number of Mi’gmaq people who are employed there.”
Gray for his part said that nothing final has been decided on the Zenabis matter.
“What we are doing is taking the steps to get ready for it … certain structures have to be put in place. We are doing the due diligence and looking at how we would set up an investment corporation; what that would look like; and get that lined up and ready. So if we go down that road and negotiations are successful that we can,” said Gray, who confirmed that he hopes to run for his second term as chief this spring.
“As we have been doing since the beginning, it is something we are going to go back and forth to the community on. We have been holding meetings with our citizens, and having good dialogue and discussions throughout. There is no need to change course.”
He said Listuguj is looking at other First Nations and how they have set up investment corporations to find best practices. The First Nation itself is not a corporation in the same way a municipality is, and can’t hold shares directly.
“There are ongoing discussions with people whose area of expertise this is. And we continue to learn from other First Nations …The idea is to grow our wealth.”
Zenabis chief executive officer Kevin Coft earlier declined any comment on the matter of the debenture dispute in Listuguj, but did say in November that Zenabis “has spent a lot of time building that partnership” with Listuguj.
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