Traffic to and from Penelakut Island was disrupted for more than an hour Monday afternoon after a member of the Penelakut First Nation chained herself to the Chemainus ferry terminal’s on-ramp gate in protest.
Valerie Bob alleged preferential treatment other members of the band from the Penelakut band administration.
Bob had threatened to take action some months before, but then changed her mind.
Things changed Monday morning when she found her family in the dark.
“Our hydro got cut off,” Bob said. “That’s what happened.”
She and her supporters explained that the Penelakut Tribe’s social assistance program helps pay two-thirds of the bills for its members, but the band has been ignoring its share of the payments. Her hydro bill is now upwards of $1,700 - a total she says has been building since last March.
“They are trying to put it on us that it’s our consumption, but this is something that’s been backed up for more than a year,” Bob explained. “It has to do with their accounting. Somebody’s not doing their job. It just goes on and on and on.”
The issue goes beyond the hydro bill the Tsussie Road family needs help paying off; the big picture is that there’s “a lot of mismanagement in our tribe,” Valerie Bob’s daughter Sophia Bob explained.
Not knowing where to turn, Valerie chained herself to the ferry gate in the hopes of attracting some attention to the cause.
The move ultimately caused the cancellation of the 12: 45 p.m.
B.C. Ferries staff called police as a result of the protest.
North Cowichan/ Duncan RCMP spokesman Cpl. Jon Stuart said Valerie Bob agreed to unchain herself and leave peacefully if asked to do so by police.
“She was having a little bit of difficulty removing the chain she’d used to tie herself to the gate so members used a set of bolt cutters to assist her in removing the chain,” Stuart said.
Among Valerie Bob’s stated concerns are mismanagement of funds and the misuse of power and authority by band administration.
“They have to figure out what the heck is going on,” Bob said. “It’s too bad that we have to resort to this. They don’t listen. They don’t hear and they don’t want to see what’s going on.”
Former Penelakut chief Jill Harris, Valerie’s Bob’s sister, explained that several attempts have been made to deal with her family’s concerns but they had fallen on deaf ears.
“Things are just not getting better,” Harris said. “We come from a little reserve on this side of the water. We are severely overlooked and neglected in favour of some people on the Island.”
Harris said others living on Penelakut Island are in the same situation as her family. “It’s a matter of justice. They’re not caring for all of the people. If you belong to a certain family you’re always taken care of,” she said. “If you’re not, you’re not.”
Harris said the group living on the Tsussie reserve has been dubbed ‘Fussy Tsussies’ because we come from Tsussie and we stand up for ourselves.”
Band manager Ruth Sauder spoke with Valerie Bob by telephone after she was cut from the gate. Sauder told Bob she was working on the problem but needed more information and nothing could be done until Tuesday at least.
Sauder was not available for comment before the Citizen’s press time on Tuesday as she and the band’s council were in meetings.
“They have to figure out what the heck is going on,” Valerie Bob said. “I’m still waiting to hear back from their meeting.”
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