Elected Chief of Salt River suspended for a fourth time

Toni Heron says she has received no communication about her suspension from council

Salt River First Nation Chief Toni Heron was suspended five times after only being on the job for seven days in the fall of 2022. (Photo courtesy of Toni Heron.)

The elected chief of the Salt River First Nation has been suspended by council for the fourth time in a row.

Both Toni Heron and her lawyer confirmed that late last week, Heron was suspended for another 60-day term.

Less than a month after being elected in September, Heron was slapped with her first suspension. She was then suspended again in December and February.

The first time, Heron says she was provided a list of reasons why she was suspended. But the next three times, Heron says she received no communication from council.

“I never got a letter, I never got a message, I never got anything from those councilors saying that I’m suspended,” she says. “The only way I find out that I’m suspended is when they put something on the walls of the public, like at the office, or else at the Petro-Canada gas bar.”

The matter has now been before the courts for months. A federal court judge upheld Heron’s first suspension, but no ruling has been made on the subsequent suspensions.

Heron’s lawyer, Evan Duffy, argues this is a violation of the First Nation’s elections code.

“If the council is of the view that the chief should be removed, then they’ve got to put it to the members for the members to vote on whether the chief should be removed,” he says. “What the council’s done is they’ve not done that, they’ve not put it to members, they’ve just kept on invoking the 60 days over and over again, essentially to keep the chief in limbo.”

Following her first suspension in October, Heron called a special meeting, where members overwhelmingly voted to oust acting chief Brad Laviolette and councilor Kendra Bourke.

Despite this, Laviolette continues to serve as acting chief, and Bourke continues to serve as a councilor. CKLB has reached out to Laviolette for comment.

More details to follow.

About the Author

Ian Down
Ian Down is a general news reporter from the West Island of Montreal. After studying journalism and computer science at Concordia University, he came to Yellowknife in 2021, joining the CKLB team in September 2022. When not behind his desk, you can find him at a local Yellowknife poetry reading, or annoying his roommates by playing his clarinet at odd hours. Feel free to reach out with any tips or story ideas at ian.down@cklb.com, or follow him on Twitter at @IanDown1996.