Alexander First Nation women rally for chief's resignation
Alexander Women Warriors, a group based out of Alexander First Nation, marched through the community to demand the resignation of the chief of Alexander First Nation.
Janet Campbell, Alexander Women Warriors organizer, said the group does not want the chief to continue to represent them. Chief Kurt Burnstick has been charged with sexual assault.
On Thursday a group of women, men, elders and children marched from the community centre to the band office to demand that Chief Kurt Burnstick vacate his position.
The chief was charged with one count of sexual assault in March of this year from an alleged incident taking place October 2015. Earlier this month, Burnstick was charged again after another community member came forward. He is facing two counts of sexual assault and one count of break and enter dating back to 1985.
A group of spectators cheered from the sidelines as the procession marched through the community. Some chose not to participate in the march after a memo was released warning any Alexander First Nation department staff employees that they may have their jobs terminated for attending the event.
“As you are aware AFN is your employer, we do not condone you attending the “Woman Warrior” march tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. but if they do attend instead of attending at work, please be aware there will be repercussions in regards to being disciplined up to and including termination for just cause,” the memo reads.
One spectator, who did not want to be named, said that she supports the rally and wishes she could march along with her community but fears she would lose her job if she participated.
Don Burnstick (no relation to Kurt Burnstick) called the memo bullying and praised the women who stood up to the intimidation.
“It’s bullying,” Burnstick said. “It’s intimidation. I’m so proud of the women here for making a stand.”
The group arrived at the band office and were met by three of the six sitting council members who addressed the cheering crowd. Coun. Allen Paul said the council will meet with legal council to see what legal steps can be taken.
Thursday evening Chief Burnstick responded to the rally, saying he would not be stepping down from his position as chief of the first nation.
“While I take the issue of sexual assault very seriously, I deny the allegations made against me, and will vigorously defend myself in court," Burnstick said in the statement.
Campbell said the group will not stop fighting for their cause.
“If we don’t have resolution we will come back,” Janet Campbell said. “We will come back and rally and we will rally bigger and in a more public place.”
The Alexander Women Warriors has arranged for the SAFFRON Centre from Sherwood Park, a sexual assault centre, to come out and provide information on sexualized violence on Saturday Sept. 24 at 12 p.m.