Saskatchewan office workers casualties of political infighting

First Nation band’s workers viewed as ‘enemies,’ awarded $150,000 by adjudicator
By Jeffrey Smith
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/02/2017

A Saskatchewan First Nations band must pay two former office workers more than $150,000 total for unjustly dismissing them during a period of political infighting among the band’s leadership.

Nicole Sylvestre and Cheryl Benjamin worked for the Buffalo River Dene First Nation band (BRDN) in northwestern Saskatchewan. Sylvestre was hired in 2001 as a finance clerk in the band office, while Benjamin was hired in 2013 as a receptionist in the band office. Both were members of the band.

In early 2014, BRDN was in a state of turmoil. One of the band councillors was charged with two counts of assault — against another councillor and a band employee — as well as uttering a death threat against the band manager. All of these incidents happened at the band office, and on the same day as one of the assaults and the death threat, the band chief was charged with assaulting the band manager’s husband and being intoxicated on the reserve.