The Alexis Creek Indian Band has been ordered to pay its former health coordinator five months’ severance for wrongful dismissal plus an additional three months’ damages for falsely accusing her of theft after her dismissal.
The plaintiff was first elected as a band councillor in 2000. She also held the position of head start coordinator, which was combined with a new health coordinator position in 2004. Though there was no posting or formal interview process, she continued working in the combined position. The band manager approved a raise in pay at the time the plaintiff took on the additional responsibilities.
In her capacity as band councillor, the plaintiff called a meeting of the council to discuss her concerns about voting issues on the council. Shortly thereafter, the band terminated her employment on the basis that she had been appointed to her position without the chief or band council’s knowledge.
Following termination, the chief wrote a letter to Indian and Northern Affairs requesting that the plaintiff be removed as a band councillor because she had been “fired” and because she had “created conflict” in the community “using her position” as councillor. The chief also reported to the RCMP that she had stolen two laptops from the band health clinic. Those allegations were unfounded and no charges were laid.
The court determined that the band did not have cause for dismissal and awarded the plaintiff five months severance. The judge found that the band had acted in an “out-of-control and high-handed manner”, had “callously accused” the plaintiff of theft and had made matters worse by attempting to remove her as a councillor. As a result, the court awarded an additional three months’ damages for bad faith.