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Buffalo Point women given absolute discharges after breaching court order

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Four women who pleaded guilty to violating a injunction have been cleared of charges in a Steinbach court.

The four had faced charges for violating a court injunction that banned them from entering their band office at the Buffalo Point First Nation in the southeastern corner of Manitoba.

"The judge based his decision on the pre-sentencing report and was of the view that although it was a breach of a court order, the women did not deserve a criminal record," their lawyer Norman Boudreau said by email Monday.

"It was more on the line of civil disobedience."

Andrea Camp, Helen Cobiness, Kari Cobiness and Brittany Cobiness pleaded guilty earlier this spring before provincial court judge Ray Wyatt. He delivered his ruling July 3.

"The judge said in open court and I quote him, ‘I would not sleep for the rest of my life if I gave them a criminal record,’" Boudreau said.

The judge gave the four absolute discharges after a pre-sentence report that outlined the living conditions for reserve residents on the tiny Anishinabe First Nation on the border with Minnesota.

"The judge recognized that they are being disenfranchised, that they are unable to obtain services from the band office as a result of this injunction and that their rights as Indians have been trampled," Boudreau said.

Camp was elected Buffalo Point chief in April, a post recognized by the Southern Chiefs Organization but not hereditary chief John Thunder, who maintains that he is the band’s chief for life.

By walking into the reserve band office last October, the four violated a 2012 injunction that Thunder won against a number of on-reserve band residents. That injunction was partly in response to protests over rights to elect a new chief.

Thunder and his staff have yet to respond to requests for comment.

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