Splatsin Kukpi7 (Chief) Doug Thomas will remain in power after a challenge to his leadership was defeated.
Two official hearings in early May were brought against Thomas by two band members who challenged his right to continue to lead the Splatsin Nation, amid a climate of political turmoil that saw the community become divided on whether Thomas should serve as chief, a little more than a year into his four-year term.
The first hearing was brought against Thomas by Splatsin member Gloria Morgan and the second by band member River Johnson. The hearings, held May 8 and 9 in Kelowna, saw a panel of three court-appointed lawyers listen to and evaluate written and in-person testimony brought by those seeking to remove Thomas, as well as from supporters of the chief.
On Friday, May 26, after a period of deliberation, the panel unanimously decided that no valid reason was found to disqualify Thomas as chief, a Splatsin representative confirmed to The Morning Star Thursday, June 1.
A third hearing is expected to take place this week, though the exact date is currently unknown, the representative said. That hearing is brought against the chief by Splatsin councillors Theresa William, Sabrina Vergata and Leonard Edwards. However, this hearing is reported to not feature any in-person testimony and is not expected to change the result of the first two hearings.
Thomas was placed on a paid suspension pending the outcome of the hearings and will remain on suspension until the third hearing has concluded.
In a statement to The Morning Star, Morgan said she was “very disappointed” in the board’s decision.
“After all the evidence and witnesses, I believe that the board failed to weigh the evidence properly. In dismissing our applications, they are sending the wrong message, that it is OK to act in the manner he was acting, including being prohibited from driving because he was drinking,” she said, referring to an incident in July 2022 when Thomas was pulled over and served an immediate roadside prohibition and three-month driving suspension, an incident he publicly apologized for.
In April, Splatsin members blocked access to key band buildings calling for a new election to be held, due to what they called Thomas’ failure to properly lead the community. The protest came after a vote of non-confidence was carried out in December, which protesters said should have triggered a new election, but several nomination meetings were cancelled without an election called.
“They need to get the message, they’re not wanted in leadership positions, the community is suffering underneath this leadership,” Setatkwa Christian, one of the protesters, said at the time.
According to a court document, the majority of Splatsin council voted to order a new election in March, however Coun. Beverly Thomas has challenged that decision in federal court, saying the band’s election code does not allow for a new election to be held in the middle of a four-year term.