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Court order to keep Buffalo Point members' protest out of chief's office

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Buffalo Point Chief John Thunder got the order he wanted: Manitoba courts ordered an extension to the injunction that bars band members from occupying his offices, according to a court order made public Wednesday. Lawyers for the band members say their clients are considering their next step.

The order issued by Queen’s Bench extends the extension indefinitely. And it orders RCMP to take whatever measures are necessary to remove the band members. Thunder had asked the court to order the RCMP to use physical force against the band members.

The order, dated Nov. 29, reads:

"The Royal Canadian Mounted Police ("RCMP") and all other peace officers shall assist the Plaintiff, including members of Chief and Council, to enforce this Order, and any peace officer may arrest and remove any person whom the peace officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe is contravening or has contravened the provisions of this Order."

A group of 18, fully 20 per cent of the entire population of the tiny band, has been occupying the chief’s offices since Oct. 19, when a dispute arose over a land referendum.

Meanwhile reports that the RCMP called the chief and his band members together for a meeting after the court issued the order were confirmed this morning. RCMP said in a statement Wednesday they are committed to a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

Since a court appearance last week, lawyers for the band members also confirmed federal Aboriginal Affairs officials have met with their clients but only to repeat Ottawa’s refusal to be involved, saying the issue is a matter to be settled internally between the chief and the band members.

The band, located approximately 170 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, is embroiled in a land battle. Band members argue the chief is trying to disenfranchise them of their land rights as part of his development plans. Thunder claims he is the hereditary chief and it is his work that has developed an economic base for the First Nation.

Thunder has said in the past that he wants to expand development, which is better known as a resort and a retirement enclave than an Indian band. The First Nation is home to 487 cottage lots and about a half a dozen homes and an apartment building for band members.

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