Ousted Caldwell First Nation chief seeks reinstatement and legal fees, she says after hearing

·3 min read
Mary Duckworth was elected chief of the Caldwell First Nation on Jan. 20, 2018, and is now challenging her removal. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)
Mary Duckworth was elected chief of the Caldwell First Nation on Jan. 20, 2018, and is now challenging her removal. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)

Mary Duckworth, the former chief of Caldwell First Nation, appeared before a Federal Court judge Wednesday to challenge band council's decision to remove her from the position, and a decision will be released later.

Following the virtual judicial review, the judge said the decision will be in writing and handed down "in due course."

After her appearance, Duckworth told CBC News she is seeking $20,000 in legal fees from the council and to be reinstated as chief of the First Nation, which has about 360 members, mostly in Leamington, Ont.

The review was set to answer questions that some members of the First Nation have asked surrounding Duckworth's removal. She said the judge would decide if "council acted appropriately and in good faith" in deciding to no longer have her as chief.

A private memo obtained by CBC was sent to Caldwell members in September 2020. Council of Caldwell First Nation said it removed Duckworth over allegations of violations and breaches of policy.

Coun. Robyn Perkins was appointed acting chief.

Coun. Robyn Perkins, front left, Duckworth, front right, Coun. James Peters, back left, Coun. Stan Scott, back centre and Coun. Steve Simpson, back right.
Coun. Robyn Perkins, front left, Duckworth, front right, Coun. James Peters, back left, Coun. Stan Scott, back centre and Coun. Steve Simpson, back right.(Caldwell First Nation)

"I had the privilege of being elected chief, twice by the citizens of Caldwell First Nation who put their faith and trust in me. I had an intimate understanding of the responsibility of waking up every morning knowing I am leading a Nation, I am not leading a team, nor leading your family, but leading a Nation," Duckworth said in a statement.

"The reality of the sitting council was ugly and unequal in their practices, the inability to engage our members and their families create frustration and distrust."

CBC News also reached out to all four band councillors — James Peters, Steve Simpson, Perkins and Stan Scott.

Scott said that once court has concluded, a statement will be released "at some point."

"When that will be or by whom, I cannot say for sure at this time."

Duckworth and some Caldwell First Nation members and its council have a tumultuous past.

Scott tells CBC News that a statement will be released on behalf of band council following Wednesday's court proceedings, but it's unclear when.
Scott tells CBC News that a statement will be released on behalf of band council following Wednesday's court proceedings, but it's unclear when.(Caldwell First Nation)

In August 2018, Duckworth was locked out of her office after a leave of absence for two months. She cited "nepotism" as the reason for her leave, but wouldn't provide examples as it was a "legal matter."

A few months prior, all four band council members alleged she had breached "fiduciary duty" in a six-page memo sent to band members, which listed the reasons for the allegation:

  • "Acting without authority," in allegedly trying to have a terminated employee keep working on band matters.

  • "Conflict of interest," in allegedly suggesting increased pay for a band-hired family member.

  • Missing meetings, including the most recent band members meeting.

  • Providing a lack of information on Caldwell events and a pension initiative.

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