A peaceful protest at Seabird Island has led to what chief and council are hoping is the start of a meaningful discussion process.
A group of about 40 people calling themselves the Committee for the Betterment of Seabird began their protest on Monday morning at the band office. While they did not physically bar any of the 270 employees from entering the office, they ask each of them to respect their protest and leave.
On Monday, many of them did, said Chief Clem Seymour. But it was a hardship for the band for many reasons, he added.
Many essential services are run out of the band office, including medical and dental services, Meals on Wheels, children’s services and home support. While the protesters allowed some essential workers to enter the building, Seymour said that all workers support each other, making everyone essential.
So on Tuesday, Seymour deemed all services essential and business got back to normal by about noon.
On Tuesday, he said he still wasn’t clear on the group’s demands, but a meeting was scheduled for later that night, and a meeting mediated by Stephen Point was planned for Wednesday.
Councillor Alexis Grace said she sees the protest and following discussions as a positive learning experience for everyone. She added that none of the issues will be solved in one meeting.
“We are happy to receive them,” she said. “Our doors are open to everyone. We really respect them and their concerns.”
One of the group’s concerns is reported to be increases to housing costs. Seymour said that there were increases to some housing costs, which are being passed down to residents.
There are homes in need of repair, he said, and those repairs need to be made for the good of the community.
“Seabird has been subsidizing housing to help make ends meet,” he said. “We have to raise some of it, and this has been a long time coming, but it’s still a little over half of what the outside world pays (for rent).”