Office workers casualties of political infighting

First Nations band’s workers sent home during power struggle; dismissal was punishment for not supporting faction of councillors who took over: Adjudicator
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 09/13/2017

A Saskatchewan First Nations band must pay two former office workers more than $150,000 total for unjustly dismissing them during a period of political infighting among the band's leadership.

Nicole Sylvestre and Cheryl Benjamin worked for the Buffalo River Dene First Nation band (BRDN) in northwestern Saskatchewan. Sylvestre was hired in October 2001 and was a finance clerk in the band office, while Benjamin was hired in April 2013 as a receptionist in the band office. Both were members of the band.

In early 2014, BRDN was in a state of turmoil. One of the band councillors was charged with two counts of assault — on another councillor and on a band employee — as well as uttering a death threat against the band manager. All of these incidents happened at the band office, where both Sylvestre and Benjamin worked, and on the same day as one of the assaults and the death threat, the band chief was charged with assaulting the band manager’s husband and being intoxicated on the reserve.