ONEIDA – Oneida Nation of the Thames Elected Chief Jessica Hill says the entire elected council was shocked and frustrated after seeing video footage of one of their elected councillors putting his arm around a former Anglican priest and convicted pedophile outside a London courtroom on Friday. “We want to make it clear we don’t
ONEIDA – Oneida Nation of the Thames Elected Chief Jessica Hill says the entire elected council was shocked and frustrated after seeing video footage of one of their elected councillors putting his arm around a former Anglican priest and convicted pedophile outside a London courtroom on Friday.
“We want to make it clear we don’t support his actions,” said Oneida’s Elected Chief Jessica Hill in a phone interview with the Two Row Times.
Hill said the elected council met immediately the morning after video footage was shared by local press and on social media.
Elected Councillor Anthony Ireland appeared to pose before the press with a smiling David Norton Friday; the day Norton was being sentenced to sexually assaulting a nine year old boy for a period of four years while he was priest of an Anglican Church on Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.
“We don’t condone his behaviour. It was poor judgement on his part to be there,” said Hill.
Hill told Two Row Times she and several other council members were contacted by members of the community who were outraged with Ireland’s conduct.
“Some of them were even stopped by community members on the road,” said Hill. “To see one of our own community members supporting a convicted pedophile was not something council would ever approve of.”
Hill said that Ireland was asked by the council to explain his actions and he spoke openly, saying Norton is his godfather and that is why he offered his support to the sex offender on Friday.
Norton was an Anglican priest in the community starting in the 1970’s through to the 1990’s. During that time he confessed that he sexually assaulted young children. He was sentenced Friday for his crimes against one member of COTTFN and still faces another trial to answer to further charges of molesting more children from the same community.
Justice Lynne Leitch sentenced Norton to four years for sexual interference Friday and said in her verdict the ex-priest “inflicted significant harm to a vulnerable and innocent child. Without question, his conduct qualifies as sexually deviant behaviour and the consequences won’t go away for the victim.”
The victims said in his impact statement the assault led him into a life of struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
Hill said the council has drafted a letter to the COTTFN to address the issue.
COTTFN Chief Myeengun Henry spoke to the Two Row Times and said he was able to speak directly to Ireland.
Henry said the community has been grieved by the knowledge of Norton’s sex crimes against children in their community. And the actions of Ireland outside the courthouse were hurtful – but Henry said he believes this was the actions of one individual who made a poor judgement call.
Ireland addressed his own conduct on his personal Facebook page Moday in a post saying “I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to the victims and their families of those hurt by Dave Norton.”
Ireland wrote, “I want to say to those directly affected by my actions I am truly sorry. I do not condone his behavior nor do I defend it. I now realize the severity of my actions and I can only ask for understanding and forgiveness.”
Ireland explained Norton was a longtime friend of his family and that is why he felt it was appropriate to show his support.
“To say we were close is an understatement. My parents trusted him to be my godfather. I looked up to him as a friend and role model, and this situation has shaken our family. Because of our history I am still in shock over everything that has transpired. I should have realized how painful this experience would be for the entire community, and I can only ask for understanding and forgiveness. I hope the victims and families can understand that I never meant to hurt anyone. My thoughts and prayers go out to you.”
The Oneida Elected council is also working on a letter to the community, as well as a new code of conduct and ethics for council members.
“When we take office we are to be role models,” said Hill. “We want to make it right with our community. It’s not a good way to start off our term.”
Hill and the rest of the council, including Ireland were newly elected in June of this year.
Hill said some members of the Oneida Nation are now questioning Ireland’s judgement and ability to lead. Hill said Oneida Nation does not have a custom election code and that the Indian Act does not have a process for removing a councillor.
According to the elected chief, a custom code is written and completed for the community, however it has never been presented to the community for approval and has not been passed. She says in order for Ireland to be removed as a council member he would have to resign.
Hill says that is a decision the entire community will have to make.
“All I know is we don’t have the tools to do it,” said Hill. “We believe the community has the say.”1 comment