‘Chiefs In The News – August 21, 2015’

This edition of ‘Chiefs In The News’ features a squabble between chiefs about nepotism at the Assembly of ‘First Nations’; two chiefs from B.C. who have lavishly compensated themselves at the expense of tribal members, and a disappointing remark that indicates just how deep the resentment and bitterness is in the aboriginal heart… 

ERBLChiefsInTheNews-2015-08-21“Assembly of ‘First Nations’ National Chief Perry Bellegarde admits he is in a conflict of interest by employing his long-time girlfriend as a senior adviser.

“The arrangement is not sitting well with Six Nations Chief Ava Hill (Six Nations has the largest population of any ‘First Nation’ in the country), who wrote the national chief in March asking him to “rectify this conflict of interest situation.” 

http://aptn.ca/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/06/LETTER-TO-PERRY-BELLEGARDE.pdf

“Hill said in an interview with APTN that Bellegarde’s decision to hire his “girlfriend” simply reinforces the perception the ‘First Nations’ leadership is not accountable or transparent. 

“I can’t hire my spouse. What would my community think of that? What if the prime minister hired his wife? It is a plain conflict of interest,” said Hill, whose Iroquois community sits south of Hamilton, Ont. “Chiefs are being criticized for this and that and the other thing and you have the national chief hiring his spouse.” 

“Bellegarde, however, says the national chief position gives him the authority to hire “a number of political staff to support my vision and mandate,” according to a letter obtained by ‘APTN National News’…

“The A’FN’ did not immediately respond to a request for comment…

“ ‘Turtle Island News’ also reported Bellegarde isn’t the first national chief to hire a partner. Former national chief Phil Fontaine appointed lawyer Kathleen Mahoney as A’FN’ negotiator and adviser during Indian residential school settlement talks while the two were sharing a home, the newspaper reported…

“In the response letter to Hill, Bellegarde said he has tried to address the obvious conflict by having his partner Valerie Galley report to the A’FN’s chief executive officer, Peter Dinsdale.

http://aptn.ca/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/06/BELLEGARDE-RESPONSE.pdf

“Dinsdale reports to Bellegarde and the A’FN’ executive of chiefs…

“Hill said Bellegarde and Dinsdale have tried to “spin” her concerns as personal in nature because her daughter quit the A’FN’ after Bellegarde transferred her to a new position…

“Hill said her concerns have nothing to do with her daughter’s past employment with the A’FN’…”

–‘A’FN’ National Chief Bellegarde admits he is in conflict employing ‘girlfriend’ as senior adviser’,
Jorge Barrera, APTN, June 24, 2015
jbarrera@aptn.ca

http://aptn.ca/news/2015/06/24/afn-national-chief-bellegarde-admits-conflict-employing-girlfriend-senior-adviser/ 

perry-bellegarde-with-valerie-galley.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox
TREVOR HAGAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

‘A’FN’ National Chief Perry Bellegarde criticized for hiring girlfriend’

“It is a conflict of interest. He admitted it was a conflict of interest and I don’t think it’s right,” Chief Ava Hill of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Ohsweken, Ont.

“Hill said she first learned of the hiring when she saw Galley’s name listed as a senior adviser on notes taken during his meeting with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne earlier this year…

“Hill said she was not satisfied with the response from Bellegarde. 

“He admitted to me it’s a conflict of interest, but at the same time he’s saying, ‘I directed she report to the CEO.’ To me that doesn’t resolve the conflict of interest situation. Maybe to him it does,” Hill said. 

“Bill Erasmus, the A’FN’ regional chief for the Northwest Territories, said he did not think Bellegarde had done enough to deal with the conflict of interest…

“Erasmus said Bellegarde told the regional chiefs he wanted Galley to continue working for him. 

“The issue is not completely over with, so we will meet with him again, and I think it’s important that she not be working there. It’s essentially against the principles and the policies that we would normally carry out,” Erasmus said.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/06/24/afn-national-chief-perry-bellegarde-criticized-for-hiring-girlfriend.html
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And here we have a Chief who pays himself a $267,309 tax-free income, while spending only $133,197 on community programs and a paltry $43,298 on education – all for a tribal membership of 90:
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‘$267,309 tax-free: Chief of 90-member B.C. `First Nation’ may be Canada’s highest paid politician’

“The 90-member Semiahmoo ‘First Nation’ in Surrey, B.C., paid its chief and one of its councillors nearly $460,000 combined in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

“Chief councillor Willard Cook was paid $267,309 and councillor Joanne Charles had a salary of $187,138, according to now-required financial filings to the federal government.

“When the salary’s tax-free status is factored in, it makes the chief possibly the highest paid politician in Canada. It would take more than $400,000 off-reserve to generate after-tax take-home pay of $267,309.

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper earns an annual salary of $327,400 plus a $2,000-a-year car allowance. B.C. Premier Christy Clark has a $193,532 annual salary.

“Cook purchased a home with acreage for $850,000 in the spring of 2014 outside the reserve, 10 minutes to the east by car, according to B.C. Land Title documents.

“However, on Thursday the home displayed a for-sale sign with a sold sticker.

“The property…listed as owned by Willard Leighton Cook, William Joseph Cook and Lynn Marie Cook — was valued at $1.05 million in 2015, according to B.C. Assessment documents.

“There was no answer by phone Thursday at the band’s office in the community located on the ocean just north of the Canada-U. S. border.

“Voice messages left at the office and emails to Charles were not returned. A person reached at the Charles home on the reserve directed calls to the office.

“The salary information was revealed in filings for the financial year ending on March 31, 2014. The band was supposed to file last fall, but filed statements only last month.

“The ‘First Nation’ was one of more than a dozen B.C. bands that failed to file financial disclosure documents by November of 2014, required under a federal law brought in by the Conservative government.

“The financial statements filed by the Semiahmoo with the federal government show the band had revenues of $4.88 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year, and had a surplus of $3.09 million.

“Most of the revenue in 2013-14 came from the B.C. government, which provided the band with $3.33 million.

“By far the largest expense was administration at $939,924, outstripping spending of $136,499 on economic initiative and $133,197 on community programs.

“Other spending included health ($90,277), education ($43,298) and land and resources ($224,807)…”

“The Semiahmoo community joins a handful of other ‘First Nations’ that have paid their chiefs exorbitant salaries.

“Former Shuswap ‘First Nation’ Chief Paul Sam was paid an annual salary of $200,000, and he and family members received more than $4.1 million in pay over a four-year period ending in 2014.

“A new chief was elected following the disclosure.

“Kwikwetlem ‘First Nation’ chief Ron Giesbrecht was paid almost $1 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year, including an $800,000 bonus in 2013 related to a land deal with the B.C. government.

“He was re-elected earlier this year…”

–‘$267,309 tax-free: Chief of 90-member B.C. `First Nation’ may be Canada’s highest paid politician’, Gordon Hoekstra, Postmedia News, August 13, 2015

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/267309-tax-free-chief-of-90-member-first-nation-may-be-canadas-highest-paid-politician`  

"Councillor Joanne Charles and Chief Willard Cook of the Semiahmoo were paid a combined $460,000 in 2013-2014" --Ian Lindsay / Postmedia News
“Councillor Joanne Charles and Chief Willard Cook of the Semiahmoo were paid a combined $460,000 in 2013-2014”
–Ian Lindsay / Postmedia News

‘The chief of a tiny B.C. ‘First Nation’ with only 39 members was paid more than $200,000‘

“The Gwawaenuk paid its chief more than $200,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year, the second exorbitant compensation to be revealed in the past week for a chief of a tiny B.C. ‘First Nation’.

“A review by ‘The Vancouver Sun’ of financial disclosures — which must be filed to the federal government by 184 ‘First Nations’ in B.C. — shows Charlie Williams was the second-highest paid chief in the province. More than 15 other chiefs and councillors had pay in the $100,000-range.

“The Gwawaenuk ‘First Nation’, which has only 39 members according to the federal government, paid chief Charlie Williams total remuneration of $211,090 in the latest fiscal year, which ended on March 31. Williams had expenses of $1,820…

“The tiny ‘First Nation’ has a mail address in Port McNeill on Vancouver Island, but its reserve is on Watson Island off the central mainland coast. There is no road access to the reserve community, where 17 people live according to the federal government…

“The Sun’s review shows that other chiefs who were top wage earners in British Columbia include Cheslatta Carrier ‘Nation’ chief Richard Peters, who collected remuneration of $166,169 in 2014-15, a 35% increase from the year before.

“The pay included loan advances of $24,650, honoraria of $45,774 and salary and wages of $95,745, according to the financial documents filed with the federal government. Peters also had expenses of $34,527.

“The north-central B.C. ‘First Nation’, with a population of 332, generated 43% of its $5.1-million revenue from logging and contracting. Another 16% of its income came from the federal government’s aboriginal affairs department.

“Also on the list of top wage earners is Osoyoos Indian Band chief Clarence Louie, known as one of B.C.’s most entrepreneurial chiefs. He collected pay of $143,659 in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

“The Osoyoos band had revenues of $12.46 million, of which 76% was self-generated through various businesses operations.

–‘‘The chief of a tiny B.C. ‘First Nation’ with only 39 members was paid more than $200,000‘,
Gordon Hoekstra, Postmedia News/National Post, August 17, 2015

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/the-chief-of-a-tiny-b-c-first-nation-with-only-39-members-was-paid-more-than-200000 

Photo: Grant Harder
Photo: Grant Harder

And some disappointing remarks (considering the source):

“If you want to colonize a country of indigenous people, the first thing you do is you bring them to their knees and take away their economic ability to support themselves. That’s what Canada did,” says Osoyoos Chief Clarence Louie.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/aboriginal-economic-development-report-shows-little-progress-1.3116444
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