Tommy Kakfwi in Yellowknife in November 2022. Caitrin Pilkington/Cabin Radio
Tommy Kakfwi says he will take legal action after the Fort Good Hope Dene Band’s council voted to remove him as chief and appoint Lucy Jackson sub-chief in his stead.
Kakfwi says the vote followed the posting of a list in the Sahtu community’s Co-op that purported to name and shame local drug dealers. Kakfwi says he had nothing to do with that list.
While he won’t speculate as to why some people think he created the list, he stresses: “They have absolutely no proof.”
Shortly after that list appeared, Kakfwi says he began receiving threats and alleges his vehicle was rammed with a quad.
He says he missed mid-July council meetings – at which a resolution was put forward to remove him from office – because he had been urged by the community’s senior administrator to instead attend the Dene Assembly in Yellowknife.
Kakfwi’s legal team alleges council put forward a motion to remove Kakfwi and replace him with Jackson because of a failure to have council approve his absences from the meetings.
Neither Jackson nor councillors Floyd Kakfwi, Rose McNeely, Joseph Tobac and Collin Pierrot were willing to speak on the matter or provide context for their decision. Other councillors could not be reached by the time of publication.
Kakfwi says attending every meeting is impossible in small communities where leaders have a number of responsibilities at once.
“In my community, when you’re chief, you’re the chair of the housing society, chair of the negotiation secretariat, chair of the Ts’udé Nilįné Tuyeta protected area management board,” he said. “Sometimes there are multiple meetings happening at the same time. That’s why there’s a sub-chief, someone to step in and cover things.”
Kakfwi argues the motion to remove him had little to do with his presence at meetings and more to do with the notice posted in the Co-op.
“Council’s actions appear to have been motivated by political dynamics and concerns relating to Chief Kakfwi’s very public stance against those trafficking and using drugs, and suggests that this decision was made in bad faith and with malice,” wrote Sheila MacPherson, Kakfwi’s lawyer, in a letter to Jackson obtained by Cabin Radio.
Kakfwi’s position is that being removed for any reason other than conviction for an indictable offence, resignation, transfer of membership to another band, or death runs contrary to the band’s custom election code.
“By unlawfully removing Chief Kakfwi from his elected role as chief and mayor of the community, you have not only damaged Chief Kakfwi’s reputation and caused him significant personal harm and distress, you have jeopardized the legal status of the community,” wrote MacPherson.
Kakfwi says he is also meeting with Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine and appealing to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
“I committed myself to this position,” he said.
“Being chief isn’t from 9 to 5, it’s committing two years of your life to serving your community. I want to see this thing through. And I want to ensure that the next leader doesn’t have to go through what I have. I want healing and forgiveness – for people to apologize for their mistakes so we can get on with things.”