Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chief returns to court to halt sit-in

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Buffalo Point's hereditary chief is back in court Thursday, this time to ask a judge to order the RCMP to use physical force against band members behind a sit-in for six weeks.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. with lawyers for the chief, John Thunder, as well as lawyers for the band members. The RCMP, which favours a peaceful resolution to the standoff, is expected to send its own lawyer to the hearing.

Thunder won an court-ordered injunction against band members early in November and won an extension in mid-November.

But both orders were issued without giving the protesters, about 20 band members, notice of the rulings, and the occupation carried on.

At one point, half a dozen protesters were briefly banned from returning to their homes because the injunction covered most of the band-owned buildings, including an apartment block where the protesters live.

Prior to the hearing, band members named in the chief's motion said they'll lead a rally outside the Winnipeg Law Courts.

The protest was sparked when band members were refused a vote on a land referendum to develop land for cottages. They occupied the band offices on Oct. 18 and demanded Ottawa remove the chief from office.

The First Nation is known for its cottage developments and resort facilities. A lawyer for some of the protesters said the First Nation has half a dozen homes for band residents and 500 cottages owned by non-natives.

"The emphasis has always been on cottage and business development and not on community development," Sara Mainville said, adding the First Nation is unlike any other reserve in the country in how it has systematically worked to dispossess its members of their land rights. "It's like going down a rabbit hole into Alice in Wonderland territory."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2012 B3

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