The Chief Councillor of Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni has been charged with break and enter and possession of stolen property after an incident on Jan. 28.
Steven Patrick Tatoosh, who was re-elected for his fifth term as chief in April 2019, has been on medical leave from the First Nations council since August, a council member confirmed.
“He asked to leave council. He needed to take a medical leave,” said the councillor, who asked not to be named.
“There are only three ways to remove an elected chief: that’s if he dies, if he formally steps down as chief…or if he’s convicted. We can’t actually remove (Steven Tatoosh),” the councillor said.
“Hupacasath Council and administration have worked diligently and tirelessly to address the issues caused by these unfortunate circumstances surrounding this vacancy,” said Jim Tatoosh, another Hupacasath councillor (Tatoosh was erroneously referred to as acting chief in a previous edition of this article). “As a community we are unified and working hard to continue on a path of health and prosperity and ensure our community is well represented on all levels.”
Hupacasath Council terms are for two years.
On Tuesday, Jan. 28 at approximately 7:40 p.m. a homeowner in the 3600-block of Eighth Avenue noticed her detached garage door was partially open, and saw a beam of light moving about as someone was looking around inside. The woman called police and kept an eye on the activity until police arrived, according to Port Alberni RCMP media liaison Cpl. Amelia Hayden.
The Port Alberni RCMP were quick to respond and located the suspect still on site upon their arrival. A 42-year-old Port Alberni resident was found inside the garage and he was promptly arrested. Further, he was found to be in possession of stolen property belonging to at least two other individuals.
A vehicle owner in the 2600-block of Sixth Avenue had reported to the Port Alberni RCMP earlier in the day that they had their wallet and some other small items stolen out of their unlocked car, likely as it was parked overnight. Subsequent to the arrest, police were able to recover some of these belongings. Police also recovered other stolen items belonging to a third individual.
Steven Patrick Tatoosh was charged with one count of Break and Enter and three counts of Possession of Property Obtained by Crime Under $5000. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 19, 2020.
“We were fortunate here to have been able to recover at least some the vehicle owner’s identification and belongings. It’s really important that everyone take whatever steps they can to prevent these crimes of opportunity and to safe guard their identity and valuables,” Hayden said.
(This article has been edited to correct a reference to Jim Tatoosh as acting chief for Hupacasath First Nation. Jim Tatoosh said he and other councillors have taken on additional duties to fill the vacancy of chief councillor; there is no acting chief councillor position provided under the Indian Act, of which Hupacasath currently falls under).