Chiefs say Rickford made ‘threats of retribution’

By Mike Stimpson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

KENORA – A court document filed recently by the Chiefs of Ontario accuses the MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, who is the province’s Indigenous affairs minister, of making “threats of retribution.”

A spokesperson for Greg Rickford responded to the allegations with a one-sentence statement.

“As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” the spokesperson stated in an email to Newswatch.

The allegations against Rickford are in a statement of claim filed by the chiefs organization.

The statement’s 45th paragraph alleges that Rickford “spoke in an angry tone and made threats of retribution” in a Dec. 11, 2023, phone call to Regional Chief Glen Hare.

According to the statement, Rickford told Hare all collaboration between the chiefs and the provincial government “will stop, now that the Chiefs of Ontario is suing the government.”

Rickford told Hare “the Ontario Government cannot work on anything with the Chiefs of Ontario” until the chiefs withdraw their lawsuit, the statement of claim alleges.

Hare had written to Ontario’s solicitor general three days earlier to tell him the chiefs would sue the province over the Community Safety and Policing Act unless key changes were made to the legislation.

The act became law last month without the amendments the chiefs wanted.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

The chiefs’ statement of claim, filed at the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, says the province and Canada fail to provide First Nations people the same access to justice that other people enjoy.

Laws made by First Nations “are undermined by lack of enforcement and prosecutions, to the detriment of First Nations people,” according to the statement.

“These inequalities also exist where federal and provincial laws are inadequate, such that First Nations laws are needed to address unique needs or circumstances,” the statement adds.

The filing asks the court for “declarations and orders aimed at ending this discrimination, including declarations and orders that the defendants must provide sufficient resources to enforce and prosecute First Nations laws.”

Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, a New Democrat, criticized Rickford and the province’s Progressive Conservative government in an email to Newswatch.

“Rather than collaborating and helping the government find alternatives to litigation, the minister for Indigenous affairs seems focused on deflecting and avoiding their provincial responsibilities to First Nations,” Mamakwa said Wednesday.

“The Chiefs of Ontario gave the government sufficient time to address these issues and have been committed to finding alternatives to legal action,” he added.

“It’s troubling that the Ford government is more concerned with bullying the Ontario Regional Chief than resolving this issue.”