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More lawsuits filed against Penticton Indigenous friendship centre for ‘wrongful termination’

The Ooknakane Friendship Centre has already been sued by its former executive director
The Ooknakane Friendship Centre in Penticton (Western News File)

Two more lawsuits against the Ooknakane Friendship Centre in Penticton join the one filed by the former executive director.

Dante Boileau and Crystal Boileau, step-son and step-mother respectively according to court documents, filed the lawsuits in small claims court on March 23.

Both Boileaus are seeking $35,186 for what they claim was wrongful termination and for the “high-handed manner of termination” of their jobs at the Ooknakane Friendship Centre in 2022 after the centre replaced Matthew Baran with a new executive director.

Baran himself filed a lawsuit earlier in 2023 alleging wrongful termination and damages to reputation by members of the board of the centre.

READ MORE: Penticton’s Indigenous friendship centre sued for allegedly forcing out ex director

According to the most recent claims, Dante had been employed as a warehouse worker for about a year when he was fired. Ahead of that, members of the centre’s board of directors had allegedly taken to visiting the warehouse to loudly discuss closing the warehouse and letting go all of the employees there, including Dante.

As a result, he went and found some seasonal work doing snow removal. He also checked with his direct supervisor to make sure he could take the job before starting it.

While he was distributing charity care packages to the homeless, the new executive director approached Boileau to explicitly tell him to cease giving those packages to non-Indigenous individuals after she questioned why he had given one to a non-Indigenous homeless individual.

Further questions ensued, and according to the claim, Boileau suffered a panic attack and attempted to exit the conversation by saying he was going to “take his f—-ing lunch”, at which point Fox allegedly fired him with cause.

A week later, Boileau received a cheque dated the day after the encounter with Fox, with a letter stating it was pay in lieu of notice, making it effectively being fired without cause. The letter also stated that Boileau was being let go for allegedly failing to comply with the centre’s policy and code of ethics.

Crystal on the other hand was employed at the centre as a family support worker and had been there for two years, prior to her exit from the position.

According to her claim, in the weeks and days leading up to her resignation, she and other non-Indigenous employees were subjected to increasing segregation and ostracization from the outset of Fox’s appointment.

Following a meeting held shortly after Fox was appointed executive director, she approached Boileau to discuss her stepson and the end of his employment, allegedly claiming that Fox felt the position was against the centre’s policies on conflicts and nepotism.

The claim alleges that Fox had hired her own brother shortly after her appointment to executive director.

Based on the direction of the conversation and experiences since Fox took over, Boileau felt that the terms of her employment had been fundamentally changed by the “unilateral imposition of racial, nepotism and conflict of interest policies that were apparently designed to remove all remaining non-indigenous employees from OFC.”

Both Boileaus sought counsel and attempted to contact the centre, Fox and the board of directors regarding their claims of wrongful dismissals, but received no response.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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