Rob Louie has formed a non-profit organization he says will assist band members in legal disputes with their councils. Photo: Submitted

Rob Louie has formed a non-profit organization he says will assist band members in legal disputes with their councils. Photo: Submitted

UPDATED: Indigenous legal organization created to help band members keep councils accountable

Rob Louie has created Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada

A Creston man has founded an organization he hopes will even the odds for Indigenous peoples who want to litigate their own councils.

Rob Louie is president of Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC), a non-profit society that provides legal assistance to band members who want elected representatives held responsible for financial misfeasance.

Louie, a former criminal defence lawyer, said he was a university student in the 1990s when he began hearing horror stories of complainants unable to afford legal fees.

“I just thought, why isn’t anything being done? And what I found was legal aid doesn’t [assist] if there’s a band member seeking justice,” said Louie, who spoke to the Nelson Star from his home in Cold Lake, Alta.

“It’s a David and Goliath situation, because the chief and council have the money or the resources and the band members don’t.”

BMAAAC was incorporated in February 2019, but began operating this fall with its first case in Alberta where a member of the Samson Cree Band is challenging a $1,000 non-refundable electoral appeal fee by her band council and chief.

Four legal firms — Dentons LLP, Runyowa LLP, Parlee McLaws LLP and MacKenzie Fujisawa LLP — are currently assisting the association with pro bono support.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s in the spirit of reconciliation, but definitely the legal community sees there is a problem and they’re offering some time to help band members who have meritorious cases,” said Louie.

In 2015, Louie was a consultant for his uncle Wayne Louie, a former chief of the Lower Kootenay Band, who sued his chief and council after they awarded themselves a total of $25,000 in bonuses during an in-camera meeting in 2009.

Wayne said at the time he was concerned Jason Louie, who is currently the band’s chief, was using band money to defend himself while Wayne had to pay for his own expenses.

“The chief flew to Vancouver to attend court and ate out on the band’s dime,” he told the Creston Valley Advance in 2015, “while I had to take a 15-hour bus ride and packed a sandwich. There’s something wrong with that picture.”

Wayne Louie lost in a trial but later won a decision by the BC Court of Appeal.

Rob Louie said that case showed him the necessity for an organization like BMAAAC. He said members typically support chief and council salaries and bonuses, provided they know about it.

“Not after the fact or behind closed doors, and I think that’s what comes out with band members is when chief and counsellor go behind closed doors and award themselves an honorarium or a bonus, and exclude the membership from that same financial pie if you will.”

Louie also plans to return to practise next year. He left a firm in 2004 to recover from alcoholism, and spent the next 15 years working as a legal consultant as well as with at-risk youth. He’s now working on a masters specializing in constitutional law at York University’s Osgood Hall Law School in Toronto, and said he is on track to be readmitted to the Law Society of British Columbia in 2021.

Part of that process, he hopes, will be a review by the society of a 2017 decision against him when he was fined a total of $5,000 for misrepresenting himself as a practising lawyer and offering legal services for a fee. Louie said he was under the influence of alcohol when he consented to the society’s ruling and wants it changed.

Substance use, which can be caused by inter-generational trauma, can lead to misappropriation of money by councils according to Louie. It’s a topic he says should be discussed in 2020.

“It’s not because somebody is inherently evil or they’re crooked. It’s because there’s a substance use or an addiction issue behind it,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s gambling, sometimes it’s alcohol, sometimes it’s drugs or all three. Our leaders are not immune to that lifestyle.”

Related:

Sinixt and B.C. argue rights at Supreme Court of Canada

Indigenous, minority, young Canadians less likely to view police positively: Poll

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated Rob Louie was not related to Wayne Louie. In fact Rob is Wayne’s nephew.

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Law & Justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo: Brenda Haley
What you see …

If you have a recent photo to share email it large or actual-size to editor@trailtimes.ca

One complaint the Trail RCMP had to deal with involved laundry. Photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Off the cuff calls to the Trail RCMP

Greater Trail police responded to several vehicle collisions as well as a few more usual cases

Two big 4-enders lifted the Darrin Albo rink to a 9-6 victory over Team Les Lepine in Kootenay Savings Super League action on Thursday. Photo: Jim Bailey.
Kootenay Savings Super League: Albo storms back for big win over Lepine

Kootenay Savings Super League curling goes every Thursday at the Trail Curling Club

poppy
Trail Legion launches poppy campaign

Trail residents can pay their respects during the two weeks up to Remembrance Day by wearing a poppy

Wreaths will already be laid around the cenotaph before people arrive at the ceremony. Photo: Chelsea Novak
Scaled-down Remembrance Day event to take place in Rossland

The public is encouraged not to attend ceremony this year due to the COVID-19 crisis

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Most Read