A group of approximately 30 Seabird Island First Nations members have occupied the Agassiz band's office in an Idle No More-style protest against alleged nepotism, corruption and mismanagement of funds.
Acting under the name the Committee for the Betterment of Seabird Island, the group announced Sunday it would take over the band office as of 7 a.m. Monday, refusing entry to administrative staff, elected councillors or Chief Clem Seymour.
"We decided we want this band office shut down because of the dealings going on in this office, how they are treating the people and we want our Chief and council removed," spokesperson Fred Price told the Times Monday morning.
Price said the band office was just the beginning and that the Sto:lo Tribal Council office and Seabird Island College would be shut down on Tuesday.
He said the group also planned to shut down a housing construction crew for allegedly shoddy work.
In a statement issued Sunday by an Idle No More provincial spokesperson, the group said, "We are exasperated of the housing, environmental, health, economic, business, education, underemployment, nepotism issues that keep us oppressed, manipulated and shoved into a corner with no consideration of our human needs or rights."
Price was adamant the occupation was peaceful and that representatives haven't blocked or even locked the doors, but are turning anyone away who wants to enter.
He added that the group wants essential services to continue. This includes home care, Meals on Wheels, doctor and dentist appointments, although early Monday there was some uncertainty if the medical professionals had been sent away and would show up.
Price said the occupation is entirely peaceful and the group is following a strict code that includes: no swearing, no substance use and even no placards for fear they could be used as weapons.
He said that if threatened physically, the occupiers will respond by walking away after issuing this statement: "Please do not touch me."
When contacted by the Times Monday, Chief Clem Seymour said he and his councillors were at the Sto:lo Tribal Council offices at Seabird Island and they were "trying to work through" the situation.
"They haven't really made any demands," he said.
Asked if he was surprised about the occupation, Seymour said "no."
"I guess they've been making noise every since the last election."
In the March 13 election that saw Seymour re-elected as Chief, Price finished 15th out of 27 people who ran for the nine band council seats.
Agassiz RCMP have attended the scene and they, along with members from the First Nations Unit, are "monitoring the situation," according to a spokesperson.
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