Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drunk driving should lead to chief's suspension, incarceration

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I haven't been reading the news much lately, but a story about Waywayseecappo Chief Murray Clearsky was hard not to notice. It was unbelievable.

A few weeks ago, Clearsky went to court for another drunk driving charge, this one stemming from December 2007. It ended up with Clearsky getting a light sentence with no jail time. His lawyer argued successfully that the chief was needed at home on the rez to oversee H1N1 vaccinations.

Wow. What was he going to do exactly that he was needed so badly at home? Hold everyone's hand while they got the shot or chauffeur the ones that didn't have a ride or a vehicle? C'mon now.

I find it hard to believe it was so important that he be there -- and hard to believe the judge accepted it too.

The worst part is this wasn't the first time Clearsky had been convicted of a drunken driving charge. He's been charged three times since 1983, and also has a dangerous weapon conviction.

Murray Clearsky has to own up to his problems.

It's embarrassing -- he's taking advantage of his standing in a community and using it to get out of doing jail time for a serious conviction. That's my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree, but first answer me this.

If Clearsky wasn't a chief do you think he would have done some time in jail for three convictions? No doubt about it.

It's time for us to demand better from our leaders.

It used to be a person did some heroic acts on behalf of the people or gave away their last possessions to help someone else and earned the peoples' respect before they were made chief. Sitting Bull would turn over in his grave if he heard about this one.

There are a lot of good chiefs out there, but when Clearsky does stuff like this he makes us all look bad. And speaking about voting isn't there something in the Indian Act that says a chief or councillor position becomes vacant if they are "unfit to continue because he has committed an offence?"

Maybe Clearsky hasn't lost his job because Wawayseecappo residents aren't aware of that?

Or Waywayseecappo might follow its own election code if a majority of the band members ever decided to go that way. Band codes should include a section that severely deals with council members, especially chiefs, who break the law. And those rules need to be enforced.

Bands like Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation have created their own election code that make a criminal record check part of the nomination process. People with a criminal record can't run for office. If an elected chief or a councillor is convicted of an offence then that person is removed and a by-election is held for that job.

Judging by his track record Clearsky has some serious issues with alcohol abuse and that's what needs some attention. He has said he's attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and he should continue with that. You don't just go to a few meetings and declare yourself cured of alcoholism.

It's like we're all enabling him when we let him off on something like this. What Clearsky probably needs is an intervention to get him on the path to sobriety.

Drinking and driving is never acceptable. Too many people have died or killed others by making the same stupid mistake. And it's time for people to expect more from our leadership -- the people of Waywayseecappo deserve way better.

Colleen Simard is the publisher of Urban NDN (

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2009 A19

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