STONEY NAKODA - The Chiniki Band – part of Stoney Nakoda First Nation – is warning Nakoda members not to voice their opinions on social media – or be sued.
On Sept. 25, Rachel Snow, a Wesley Band member, said she was delivered a letter to “cease and desist” making defamatory comments online.
“We are advised that you have published and disseminated statements about Chief Aaron Young (the “Chief), his family and Council of the Nation (“Council”) on the social media site Facebook,” the letter reads.
The letter stated that Snow allegedly posted “entirely inaccurate, defamatory and libelous allegations designed to damage the Chief, his family and council’s reputation within the community by depicting them as deceitful.”
It then warned Snow that if she does not “immediately cease and desist the conduct described above,” the counsel writing on behalf of the band will seek instruction from Chiniki council on commencing litigation against Snow. She was also told to delete all prior posts dubbed slanderous.
However, Snow said she didn’t make any direct comments using names online.
“I didn’t delete anything,” Snow said. “If the Chiniki Chief and his family took it upon himself to get offended then either they have a guilty conscience or they’re looking at that comment as being directed towards them.”
The letter comes in the midst of a controversial land designation referendum – set for a second vote on Oct. 18 – which potentially could see 3,000 hectares of reserve land commercialized.
Snow has been vocal on her opposition of the designation since it first came to a vote last February, which was rejected by the community.
“It’s basically a scare tactic or like a tactic to stop the oppositional comments. But oppositional comments are necessary because we need to have a critical analysis of what is happening with this land designation. We’re asking questions because we want answers,” Snow said.
Snow said she was hand-delivered the letter at her home.
“I was just having my first coffee trying to wake up and I looked at it and I actually laughed when I saw the first few lines,” Snow said.
The Cochrane Eagle did not find any posts directly referring to an individual but did see a post referring to council in general which was posted on Sept. 19 and reads:
“Wow, something’s going on, like our people’s second vote on the land designation. If it only benefits council, why do it?”
The Cochrane Eagle reached out multiple times to Chiniki councillor and spokesperson, Jordie Mark. He replied he would not comment on the letter as it is a legal matter. When asked what comments were made by Snow in particular that warranted the letter, there was no response.
It isn’t the first time the Chiniki band has sought legal action against an outspoken Nation member. Greg Twoyoungmen was served earlier this year, this time though, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include all 15 elected officials from the Wesley, Chiniki and Bearspaw bands, who are seeking $20,000 in damages.
Twoyoungmen circulated a petition to end the three chief system currently in place and also made comments on Facebook that described the land designation as a “land grab.”
He also criticized Nation leaders using inflammatory adjectives.