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Penticton’s Indigenous friendship centre sued for allegedly forcing out ex director

The lawsuit claims it was part of a concerted effort to force out all non-Indigenous staff
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The Ooknakane Friendship Centre in Penticton (Western News File)

A former director of the Ooknakane Friendship Centre in Penticton has launched a lawsuit that claims he was forced out due to not being Indigenous.

Matthew Baran filed the lawsuit in Penticton’s courts on March 7, alleging that the centre’s board of directors had turned what had been supposed to be a sexual harassment investigation into the board president into an investigation of Baran, before mounting a campaign to allegedly discredit him and damage his reputation in the community.

According to the lawsuit, the investigation had been turned into a search of alleged financial mismanagement by Baran after the board president failed to recuse himself.

That investigation then stagnated after the investigator turned in preliminary findings that exonerated Baran but raised concerns about the board’s financial management, according to court documents.

Over the next several months, rumours of Baran being unethical or financially irresponsible began to be spread, dealing what he claims was significant damage to his reputation in the First Nations community and among non-profits.

READ ALSO: Penticton’s former mayor files new lawsuit against family

Baran claims the damage was done to undermine him and to force him to either resign or distract from the issues relating to the harassment complaint and the financial state of the board.

He also claimed that it was part of a concerted effort to eliminate all non-Indigenous employees from the centre.

In addition to damages and costs for the alleged wrongful termination, Baran is also suing for a $50,000 bonus that he claims were withheld from him after he secured $5 million in funding for the centre.

While he was away on medical leave, he also claims that his office was ransacked and his employment agreement taken, which had a requirement that the centre provides 18 months’ notice of termination without cause.

No response has been filed by the centre and none of the lawsuit’s claims have been proven in court.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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