Thunderchild band councillor Michael Linklater, ousted over residency requirement, seeks judicial review
SASKATOON -- Michael Linklater, known for his professional basketball career internationally and with the Saskatchewan Rattlers, is challenging a decision by Thunderchild First Nation after he was removed from his position as a band councillor in July.
Last month, Thunderchild First Nation ordered Linklater be removed from office effective July 13 and ordered a byelection for the vacant position be held as soon as possible.
In his notice of application submitted in federal court on Aug. 10, Linklater asks for a judicial review of the decision, which was due to Linklater’s failure, after being elected in October 2018, to follow the Thunderchild Election Act’s requirement to reside on Thunderchild reserve.
The grounds of the application state the Thunderchild Appeal Tribunal Panel refused to exercise its jurisdiction, made errors in law and failed to observe principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.
Jonathan Jimmy, a cashier at the Thunderchild Gas Bar, told CTV Saskatoon he filed a complaint to the band office against three band councillors who he felt were not following the rules by living on Thunderchild First Nation
“I did it to show the people that it is possible and it is our right to exercise our own laws to make sure rules are followed,” Jimmy said. “It (shows) that we do have a voice.”
Jimmy said two councillors provided affidavits stating they hold residence on reserve. The third councillor, Linklater, was removed from his position.
“If you want to be a leader you need to be in your community, you need to be seen, you need to be heard. Be with the people,” Jimmy said.
In his notice of application, Linklater states the residency requirement by the Thunderchild Elections Act is unconstitutional and flies in the face of Canada’s Charter of Right and Freedoms.
The application also states that the tribunal panel erred in that it failed to consider the “impossibility of the applicant (Linklater), or others from complying with the residency requirement because the housing shortage on reserve.”
Linklater is also asking for the Thunderchild government to hold a referendum, when safe to do so, to remove the residency restriction for elected leaders within the Thunderchild Election Act and modify or remove it for councillors only.
Jimmy said in the past, band members have attempted to remove the residency clause four times. None have been successful.
“If you want to be a leader you need to be in your community, you need to be seen, you need to be heard, be with the people,” he said.
Jimmy said he didn’t file the complaint to serve his interests, adding he doesn’t plan on running in the byelection for Linklater’s vacant position. He did this because he felt it was the right thing to do.
“I thought I would step up and do something right and show that as a first nation we have a voice, we voted on this constitution. It wasn’t a point to make them look bad.”
CTV Saskatoon reached out to Thunderchild Chief James Snakeskin and Winston Walkingbear, director of operations and the official who authored the letter removing Linklater from office for comment on the application.
In a text, Walkingbear said: “Chief James Snakeskin said the Thunderchild First Nation will provide a legal and factual response to the news story provided by Jonathon Jimmy, TCFN band member, who has been served legal documents by Mr. Linklater in his appeal to TCFN Tribunal decision of July 13, 2020.”