Six Nations Elected Council questions how Turtle Island News obtained draft document on re-opening the local economy

New passes will be needed to pass through Six Nations checkpoints put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Jim C. Powless)

By Lynda Powless
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER-Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) wants to know how a draft document outlining how Six Nations will re-open its economy was obtained by Turtle Island News.
The draft document obtained by Turtle Island News published  May 6, 2020,  proposes to stretch the re-opening of Six Nations businesses and industry closed due to COVID-19 over three phases and into July before all businesses and workspaces have re-opened.
Turtle Island News had obtained the documents, one outlining a time frame for reopening the Six Nations economy and a second outlining health and safety certifications and inspection concerns.
SNEC was not happy the document was leaked questioning each other at its Tuesday (May 12 2020) meeting over how it got out into the community.
Councillor Michelle Bomberry, who chaired Tuesday night’s meeting, said she was “shocked to see it in the newspaper. It hasn’t come to full council. It was strictly a draft,” she said.
Bomberry said how Turtle Island News obtained the document should be an open council discussion. “They’re in attendance tonight. There should be a discussion on how they get hold of confidential information.”
Councillor Audrey Powless-Bomberry said she only read the document over and provided her input.
Councillor Helen Miller told the meeting “why don’t you just call Lynda (Powless, editor, Turtle Island News) and ask her how she got it.”
Councillor Wendy Johnson said while she appreciates the comment “any paper has their sources and if they give em up they won’t have em anymore.”
She said council needs to be transparent.“We need to be very transparent here. I sit on the subcommittee and I don’t even remember it being sent out other than to individuals that were working with HCCC for input.”

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson

Councillor Johnson said the draft was not a secret. “It’s not that it’s a secret document, it was a draft and we were getting it to a point of having a full discussion on it.” She said the document should eventually go out to local businesses.
“It’s a draft document and it was meant to be something to discuss and have input in.”
She said the document should go out to all Six Natios businesses. “It should go to businesses to make sure businesses have input because they will be impacted and not just to tobacco. It’s for all business when it comes to opening up. How do we do it for safety reasons and we have to protect our economic base. So they need to be involved in the discussion.”
She told the meeting it amounted to “somebody had it and shared it, when it was premature to do so. It was an in-camera discussion. It is an issue going forward. It’s not a huge secret document meant to be shared but we were getting it to a point when it’s ready.”

Councillor Johnson said the publishing was a breach of confidential council information. “There is a breach so do we just say okay and move on? Is there something we do now? Do we action something?”
She said “this caught a lot of people off guard and it looks like council is trying to undermine. It creates negativity around a good initiative going forward.” She said she has concerns about a more serious document being leaked.
“What if it’s something that’s more serious than this breach?”
Elected Chief Mark Hill’s special assistant Kathy Mair said she didn’t even have a copy of the document.
“I didn’t even have a copy of that document yet. It could have been at sub-committee. So I think this is a huge breach and should be taken seriously.”
She said the document was meant to be shared with the community at some point down the road.
“The newspaper got hold of an internal document. It was meant to be shared but not at that time, if this can be shared what else is being shared? What are we going to do about it?”
Councillor Helen Miller questioned if council members were accusing each other of leaking the document.
“When you use a word like breach? It’s like you are saying one of us did it and I don’t think any of us did it.”
She said she sent an email in April asking about the document that was being circulated in the community but had not been before council. “When I wrote that email in April none of us had seen it yet, now it’s in the newspaper. Anybody could have given it to her.”

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Councillor Helen Miller stells council to ask the reporter how she got the information.

Councillor Miller questioned how breaches are happening. “Nathan (councillor Wright) put that police review into an open meeting and when he did he breached confidentiality of a closed meeting. He brought it into an open meeting without asking council if he could do so. That was a breach as well. Anything we discuss in closed is closed. He breached confidentiality but no one said anything. Breaches can happen in a number of ways I don’t know how she got it but it was out in the community before I saw it. I don’t know who did it, it’s been out there.”
Councillor Bomberry said council had discussed bringing the police review to an open council session.
“We discussed why can’t some of these issues be in open. We want to bring as much information as we can to the community. We should, we have to be accountable to them.” Bomberry said Councillor Miller has been advocating for more issues to be in open meetings.
Council said the article was accurate and the accuracy was not the issue.
Council agreed to discuss the issue of information breaches at a future meeting.

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