The new chief of Roseau River First Nation has evicted the managers and staff at the Red Sun gas bar, saying revenue from the lucrative operation belongs to the band, not the former chief's family.
An eviction notice was posted tonight on the door of the gas bar, located on Highway 6 north of Winnipeg. Staff was sent home and security guards now occupy the shop.
At least four RCMP cruisers were on scene but the eviction was peaceful.
The underlying issue is a longstanding dispute between current chief Ken Henry and former chief Terry Nelson, now Southern grand chief.
Nelson's daughter runs much of the operation, along with former premier Gary Doer's brother. Chief Henry and his council allege most revenues from the gas bar and smoke shop are accruing to Kathy Nelson and David Doer, who do not hold a proper lease to the land.
The band says that revenue — millions in cigarette rebates and gas sales — properly belongs to Roseau River First Nation.
A press conference is slated for Thursday morning.
Former chief Nelson, on scene Wednesday evening, called the move "maddening."
"You can't take over a private business. There is a 20-year lease," he said. "This will send a chill over all people who want to invest in urban reserves."
Nelson said the band council did approve a proper lease and that the operation created 35 jobs, which are now in jeopardy. A private gas company owns the pumps and the tanks and Nelson says the company will not allow them to operate.
Nelson said the matter is expected to go to court Thursday morning.
The band could earn $100,000 a month in tobacco revenue if it ratified a revenue-sharing agreement with Doer. That revenue-sharing deal was part of how Nelson convinced Doer to invest in and manage the smoke business his daughter owns.
Band members rejected leasing part of Highway 6 during a referendum 2008.
"It's not only about the proper lease," Chief Henry said. "It's also got to do with a lot of money the band put into the building of Highway 6."
Henry said many band members have questioned where revenue from the gas bar was going.
He said the investors will be compensated. And Henry said the band is willing to go to court.
"We are returning Red Sun to its rightful owners," said Henry.