Lawsuits against Penticton's Ooknakane Friendship Centre stacking up, alleging wrongful firing

Friendship centre has foes

Penticton's Ooknakane Friendship Centre is facing two more lawsuits filed by former employees, following allegations of wrongful dismissal by its former executive director based on non-Indigenous status.

A pair of separate civil suits filed on March 23 in Penticton court by Dante Boileau and Crystal Boileau each claim $35,000 for wrongful termination and general damages.

The suits are in the wake of legal action started by Matthew Baran earlier this year. Baran held the office of executive director with the registered non-profit organization from November 2020 until August 2022, and he is seeking compensation for what his lawsuit describes as an unpaid bonus, damage to his reputation and the feeling of being driven out of his job.

Crystal and Dante Boileau — Dante, according to the legal filings, is Crystal's stepson — have now filed their own suits.

According to the lawsuits, Dante was paid $17 per hour in his position as warehouse worker with OFC. In late 2022, he claims, members of the OFC board openly discussed the closure of the warehouse, prompting him to find secondary part-time seasonal work as a snow remover, which to his understanding was allowed under his OFC contract.

Dante alleges that a newly-hired executive director of OFC, Shauna Fox, approached him while he was working distributing care packages to homeless individuals in November, asking why those packages had been given to people who were not Indigenous.

He alleges that the next day, Fox questioned the legality of his second job in snow removal, prompting a panic attack. He acknowledges that he walked away from the conversation in "heightened anxiety," saying he was going to "take [my] f***ing lunch."

Dante was fired; at the time, it was his understanding it was for "just cause," but he alleges that a week later, he received a cheque for one week's pay in lieu of notice — the procedure for termination without cause, according to the civil filing.

Dante is seeking $35,186 from OFC, citing in part the "high-handed manner of termination."

His stepmother, Crystal, filed a lawsuit the same day in March seeking the same amount of money. She had been a family support worker with OFC before her dismissal in November 2022, according to the suit, and had been making approximately $47,000 per year.

She claims that Fox spoke to her about her stepson within days of his termination, saying that Dante's employment had broken OFC policies regarding conflict and nepotism, despite Fox allegedly having just hired her own brother to fill an OFC position.

Crystal also claims, as Baran's lawsuit does, that employment changes within OFC were an intentional attempt to eliminate non-Indigenous employees.

No claims in the lawsuits have yet been proven in court.

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