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 woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

New business owner Kalina Whitelaw of Miner's Mud started selling coffee and fresh=baked goods in Fernie this weekend. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Bob Keating was CBC’s Kootenays correspondent for 21 years. He retired last month to start a podcasting company. Photo: Tyler Harper
The voice of the Kootenays: CBC correspondent Bob Keating retires

Keating had reported out of Nelson since 2000

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The White House says it is making plans to share up to 60 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 11,075 since the pandemic began

Teck's Elkview operations seen from Sparwood. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Teck profits up, coal sales to China a priority

The company is continuing to see increased interest in Elk Valley coal from China

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Most Read