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Garden River FN shakes up council, elects new chief

Garden River First Nation has undergone a major shakeup around its council table.

Members voted out the majority of council at an election held Tuesday. The coming term will include fewer seats at council, a four-year term for the first time and a new chief.

The new chief, Karen Bell, is a bit of a trailblazer in her community. The community’s first female chief comes to the role after six years on council, and more than 30 with the local Anishinabek Police Service, where she was the first female officer in the community.

"I knew the dynamics of the community, the struggles of the community,” Bell said.

“I've had personal interactions with almost every single person in this community."

"She has been around and worked with the First Nation for many years in her previous roles,” said Garden River resident Kristen Jones.

“I know that she's respected within the community."

Bell will soon sit at the head of the council table and there will be many new faces around her. The community opted to shrink council from 13 to 9, with only a handful of returnees.

"They were ready for change and they obviously showed that at the polls," Bell said.

She said residents that she spoke with felt there was a lack of transparency in previous leadership, something she vows to change.

"What's going on? Where's our money? What are we doing with our money? How's it being spent? When are we going to have an opportunity to find out those kind of things? That's what I would say would be No. 1,” Bell said.

“(I heard) that people were unaware or uninformed about what was being said, or decisions being made, and they wanted input."

In 2021 Bell launched a libel suit against Garden River and two fellow councillors over a motion to censure her.

While she ultimately lost in court, she said community members saw that she was committed to asking their questions, and that it helped her get elected. Top Stories

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