A fourth lawsuit has been filed against the Ooknakane Friendship Centre in Penticton by an employee claiming to have been forced out over policies allegedly focused on getting rid of non-Indigenous staff.
In this case, unlike the other three, the former Echo-Lynn Lyons was herself Indigenous, although she claims that her Caucasian appearance had subjected her to the same pressures other former employees faced.
The lawsuit, filed in Penticton on May 5, claims that she was lumped in with the four Caucasian employees who were either fired or resigned since November 2022 when the centre hired its new executive director, Shauna Fox.
Lyons worked at the centre for three years in different positions, with her last position being a youth program coordinator.
According to the lawsuit, in December of 2022, Fox called a staff meeting where she allegedly publicly ostracized Lyons as “the last remaining ‘non-Indigenous’ employee” at the centre for failing to network with local Elders.
Fox then allegedly suggested to another youth program coordinator that she could help connect her to various Elders, not making any similar offer to Lyons, which Lyons took to imply that she did not meet the centre’s standard for qualifying as being Indigenous.
Lyons’ lawsuit is the latest to claim that the centre, its executive director and its board of directors have been engaging in an effort to force out non-Indigenous staff at the centre.
Two lawsuits were filed in March, by Dante and Crystal Boileau, which followed an earlier lawsuit that month by Matthew Baran, the former executive director of the centre for many years.
Similar to the language in the other lawsuits, Lyons felt that the terms of her employment had 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.”
None of the claims have been proven in court.
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