Magazine article Anglican Journal

Natives Say Spirituality Led to Firing

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Natives Say Spirituality Led to Firing

Article excerpt

DIANE PAQUETTE

STAFF WRITER

The chief of the predominantly Anglican Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Saskatchewan is determined not to compensate or hire back three fired Native justice workers who practised traditional Native spirituality.

Chief Harry Cook is adamant he will never take them back, despite a recent federal adjudicator's report that orders two of the men reinstated and all three paid a total of $160,000 in lost wages.

According to a 65-page report by Anne Wallace, a Saskatoon lawyer hired by the federal Minister of Labour to investigate the case, the three justice workers were fired in 1997 because they practised traditional Native religious beliefs on a mostly Anglican reserve.

The chief is asking for a judicial review of the report. He said the men were not fired for their religious beliefs. "Absolutely not," he said in an interview.

Instead, the chief said the three men, Sol Charles, Larry Laliberte and Robert Ballantyne, who worked on the reserve's Stanley Mission justice committee, were fired because of "other matters."

Letters to the men at the time of their dismissal said Mr. Charles was guilty of acts "tantamount to theft or fraud," Mr. Laliberte's job was declared "redundant," and Mr. Ballantyne was accused of "insubordination, breach of code of ethics, breach of oath of confidentiality and conduct which can be interpreted as being disrespectful to the employer and elders."

However, the three men believe they were fired because of the use of traditional Native spirituality in a controversial case on the reserve. The justice committee on the reserve had brought together a sexual offender and his victim for a session of spiritual healing.

The chief said "the whole community didn't think it was a good idea," and that they were "not prepared for that kind of thing happening."

An Anglican himself, the chief said the firings had nothing to do with a conflict between Anglicanism and traditional Native spirituality. Ms. Wallace's report states otherwise.

It backs up the claim that a large chunk of the Christian population on the reserve is wary of Native spirituality, saying the men were "singled out and were discriminated against because of their practice of traditional Native spirituality," and that the chief and band council "were so concerned to abolish all aspects of Native spirituality that even the word `holistic' took on overtones they could not accept."

Mr. Charles, one of the men fired, said there are many powerful people on the reserve who don't agree with Native spirituality. …

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