Elected Chief will not resign from office after “unprovoked and unfounded attacks” by publisher Chief says he was victim to a targeted attack on his identity in ‘catfishing’ scheme

OHSWEKEN — Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill says he will not be resigning from his position and sent out a scathing rebuke to Turtle Island News publisher Lynda Powless over the weekend, demanding an immediate apology for falsely reporting he posted nude photos to social media.

The original article appeared in the June 30, 2021 print edition of the Turtle Island News, a Six Nations local newspaper, alleging the chief posted nude images of himself to social media, speculating about the chief’s state of mental health and moral authority to remain in leadership and suggesting that he may be investigated and removed from office.

The story further went on to allege the chief may have violated the council’s code of ethics and outlined the process that the Chief may be impeached or forced to resign if he did violate the code of ethics. It did not include details or references to what social media outlets the images were posted to or when.

Now, the Elected Chief is standing up to Powless, who authored the June 30th story, saying in a statement that the article is an unfounded and irresponsible attack on his personal life by the Turtle Island News — and is calling on Powless to formally apologize and make a donation in his name to an indigenous organization that specializes in mental health.

Chief Hill told the Two Row Times, “As a people, we are entering another traumatizing period in our history, one that will require much strength to endure. My own strength has been diminished, recently, by unprovoked and unfounded attacks in the Turtle Island News.”

“I sought leadership in our community because I wanted to help lift up all the people of Six Nations. I ask that we stand together now, and resist committing further violence against one another through lateral acts of hatred or division,” said Chief Hill. “I do not want to see anyone else hurt the way I have been – there is far too much pain to deal with already. I stand today with anyone who has been bullied, who has had their privacy violated or their character unfairly questioned. You are not alone. It is not your fault. And together, we will remain strong.”

A statement last week, issued by the Chief and sent via email to Two Row Times and the Turtle Island News says, “On Wednesday, The Turtle Island News ran a story alluding to private photographs of Chief Hill, which he had shared electronically in the context of an online dating application, and with an expectation of privacy. The photographs were not “posted to social media” as the article claims, but shared privately with an individual through a dating app. Any subsequent dissemination or sharing of the images was done so without his consent.”

A source who saw the images told TRT they were screenshots of a private conversation the sender, who had assumed a false identity, was engaged in with the Chief. That person then distributed screenshots of private images via a mass text message sent to over 200 community members, along with a caption boasting that the sender was “cat fishing our chief”.

“Catfishing” is an online deception where a perpetrator creates a false identity or fake persona on a social network to target and lure a specific victim — usually for financial gain, to compromise the victim or acquire other information that may be seen as damaging or embarrassing.

Sharing intimate images of someone without their consent is a criminal offence, also known as nonconsensual pornography or revenge porn.

The statement suggests the photo leak could be considered a crime.

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, circulation of the photos could fall under what’s known as “revenge porn” laws, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Section 162.1 of the Criminal Code states: every person who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells or makes available an intimate image of a person, knowing that the person depicted did not give their consent to that conduct, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.

TRT reached out to Powless for comment — to ask how the publisher acquired the photos. No response was received. No inappropriate images of Chief Mark Hill appear on his social media accounts on Facebook or Instagram.

The statement from the Chief goes on further to state that the TIN article included an interview with Six Nations Election Officer Steve Williams to explain how someone would go about removing an elected chief via the Six Nations Integrity Commission — however the story did not explain that the Six Nations Election Officer Steve Williams is currently suing Chief Hill and the rest of the elected councillors in a lawsuit related to a 2020 press statement from SNGR calling for Williams resign from the Six Nations Police Commission. A spokesperson for Chief Hill told TRT that puts Williams in a conflict of interest in his role as the Six Nations Election Officer pertaining to any review of Chief Hill’s conduct — or a review of any of the other elected councillors.

“Author and Turtle Island News Publisher Lynda Powless made unfounded, disparaging editorial suggestions that Chief Hill’s private dating life should be seen in conflict with his professional integrity, although there have been no formal complaints regarding the photos to the Six Nations Integrity Commission. Ms. Powless published the story after receiving a letter from Chief Hill’s lawyer advising her of the disparaging and irresponsible nature of her unfounded claims, as well as the fact that the Six Nations Election officer Steve Williams, who would review any code of conduct complaints, is currently involved in an unrelated lawsuit with Chief Hill. This conflict was not disclosed in the Turtle Island News,” says the statement.

“I have committed my professional life to fighting for our people, always motivated by the community’s best interest,” said Chief Hill. “My personal life, conducted privately and on my own time, has no bearing on my work, and should not be used as a revelation or a weapon to divide our people.”

“At this moment, we are working to protect our people through a global pandemic, to comprehend the scope of the atrocities committed against us at so-called “Residential Schools” and to win long overdue respect and support from the Canadian government,” said Chief Hill. “Attacks on my personal life must not be used as a distraction from this vital work. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided, and we will not allow each other to be disparaged.”

The statement further goes on to reject allegations by Powless that Chief Hill’s private life is in any way scandalous, and provides resources for others in the community who may be triggered by the story or who have experienced similar online harassment or bullying as a result of their personal identity or who have had personal information shared without their consent.

Turtle Island News did not publish the story to their website or on their social media channels this week. However photographs of the story as it appeared in the print edition of the paper were circulated on social media throughout the weekend where the Chief was subject to further attacks from a vocal minority, calling for the Chief to resign and offering critical and bigoted commentary. The majority of the commentary was supportive of the Chief having a right to privacy and offended that the news coverage in Powless’ story was not factual, some calling for Powless to issue an apology to the community for publishing misleading information.

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