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

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

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Leather Apron Revival will live stream on October 24, 2020 through Studio 64 concert series. FaceBook image
Live-streamed concerts at Studio 64 continue

Blues Rock with a Molten Metal Motif

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry to the U.S., still placed in Canadian quarantine

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Nicole Cherlet for the BC NDP, Samson Boyer for the BC Greens and Doug Clovechok for the BC Liberals will be your choices on the ballot in the upcoming provincial election. (Submitted/Revelstoke Review)
Columbia River – Revelstoke candidates adapt to pandemic

COVID-19 protocols make for unique campaign

Kimberley Minor Hockey players scrimmage with the Dynamiters last year. KMH file
Kimberley and Cranbrook Minor Hockey relationship grows the game for local players

Players can now play to their skill level regardless of city of origin

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Fort St. John councillor Trevor Bolin (B.C. Conservative Party)
BC Conservatives leader fights back after BC Liberals leak 2018 workplace harassment case

Sexual harassment case was connected to employee being terminated, WorkSafeBC found

Most Read