Monday, 1 September 2014

Some Aboriginal chiefs in Canada are ripping of the taxpayers

The Toronto Star recently ran an expose on Aboriginal chief’s salaries. The article focused on 9 chiefs who earned more than mayors of towns and cities, federal cabinet ministers and 30 chiefs who earned more than provincial premiers. The article stated that that on average, chiefs earned a reasonable $60,000 a year, 5 chiefs do their work pro-bono and 77 chiefs earned less than $30,000. However the fact that the majority of Aboriginal (Indian) chiefs earn reasonable salaries while some work for free is not really an eye-catching headline. This data compiled was compiled by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The “million-dollar chief” made the headlines recently, after the salaries and expenses of First Nation band councils were released as part of the government’s new Financial Transparency Act, but Chief Ron Giesbrecht is not the only one with “eyebrow-raising salaries,” the federation contends. More on this chief later in this article.
A list contrasting the difference between First Nation and municipal politicians’ pay shows exactly how remuneration levels on reserves surpass the salaries of mayors serving much larger communities.
All of the comparisons use on-reserve population figures and convert chiefs’ salaries, which are tax-free, into “off-reserve equivalents,” or what the corresponding figure would be for someone who pays tax. I will use those figures in this article.
Chief John Thunder runs the Buffalo Point First Nations Reserve in Manitoba; a reserve of only 40 people and is located about 200 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg and is on the shores of Lake of the Woods The chief earned taxable of $185,000 which is double what the mayor of Brandon, Manitoba (population 46,000) Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst’s salary was $95,000.
Chief John Thunder had been in power in his reserve for three decades (2067—1997) so you can have some idea of what he has made during all those years as the chief of approximately 40 people. One year he also filed expenses worth approximately $12,000. The chief’s online biography states that he has a marketing degree and as CEO of the Buffalo Point Development Corporation, is responsible for overseeing the “economic success and road to independence” for the community.
Give me a break. All the chiefs are required to oversee their reserve’s economic success for their communities and most of them don’t hire themselves out at their reserve’s expense of $185,000 a year to do what is expected of them as chiefs of the various reserves especially if the reserve comprises of only 40 members. 
Buffalo Point First Nation is not governed by an electoral system of government. The leadership is determined by a primitive, hereditary system, wherein the chief can also select the councillors. When Thunder was in power,  of the two Councillors, one who is related to the chief.
Upwards of 20 members of the Buffalo Point First Nation had occupied their band office for almost a month challenging the authority of their non-elected chief John Thunder. The sit-in protest was sparked by a referendum in which a number of band members were not allowed to vote. Many of the protesters said they were left off the list of voters.
Buffalo Point's hereditary chief had organized the referendum on whether to opt out of sections of the federal Indian Act, allowing the First Nation to control its own land and resources.
Charles Gibbons, another band member who has been occupying the office, said he and others want to get rid of John Thunder, the First Nation's non-aboriginal hereditary chief. The protesters were calling on federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister, John Duncan to end what they call a “dictatorship” on the First Nation. Tribal critics accused him of using the reserve and its culture, to enrich his family, while he employed only a few of the Indians while he reigned as the reserve’s dictator.
The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations Reserve is located in south-central Ontario, Canada, just east of Toronto. Last year, 47 people lived on the reserve in a band of 226 people in total.
Chief Kelly LaRocca earned an equivalent taxable income of $159,000 in 2013. That’s more than double the $65,000 the mayor of North Bay, with a population of 53,651, took home last year. Chief LaRocca said her salary is set and approved by Council. She is a former insurance and class-action litigator.
The Cheslatta Carrier First Nation traditional lands form a large portion of the Central Interior of present-day British Columbia, Canada. The population on reserve is 167 and the population off reserve is 163, with a total of 330. Richard Peters is chief. There are also two Councillors. The chief earned equivalent taxable income of $185,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, Mayor, Jack Froese of the Langley Township, population 105,000, earned $128,000.
The Acadia First Nation is composed of five Mi'kmaq Indian reserves located in southwestern Nova Scotia. As of 2012, the Mi'kmaq population is 191 on-Reserve and approximately 1,179 off-Reserve. Chief Deborah Robinson of the Acadia First Nation last year took in equivalent taxable income of $217,000. She also racked up more than $16,000 in travelling expenses. The mayor of Halifax earns $159,000, overseeing a city of more than 400,000 people.
Also in Nova Scotia, Chief Sidney Peters of the Glooscap First Nation, earned the equivalent taxable income of $187,000, for overseeing a band of 75 people. The Chief’s biography says he has 23 years of work experience with not-for profit groups, band councils, tribal councils and municipal, federal and provincial governments.
The Kwikwetlem First Nation Reserve is located in the Coquitlam area of British Columbia. About one third of all Kwikwetlem members live on the reserves, (81) while the rest reside throughout Western Canada and the United States.
Questions are being raised over the pay being reeled in for the Chief of Kwikwetlem First Nation. Chief Ron Giesbrecht received a giant $914,000 in compensation last year. The next highest paid member is Councillor Ed Hall who received, in comparison, a paltry $52,000 dollars. In the band’s financial breakdown it notes it has eight and a half million in cash, with a million in long term debt. On the revenue side, the BC Government kicks in the most by far giving the band a hefty $8.2 million dollars.
In breaking down the compensation for Chief Ron Giesbrecht, during the last fiscal year, his salary was just over $100,000. But he also earned $80,000 as the band’s Economic Development Officer and he also got a bonus, which was $800,000 dollars. To think a person that governs 81 people, less than half who actually live on the reserve, took home more $900,000 tax free. It is outrageous and it is an embarrassment to the Kwikwetlem reserve. The council thought so too.
Kwikwetlem First Nation council says that a new contract has been negotiated and the bonus removed. It says the Chief’s salary has also been reduced to just $4,800 dollars. I have presumed that he will still get the $80,000 as the band’s Economic Development Officer.
I have great concerns as to how Canadian taxpayer’s money is being shoveled into the pockets of some of the chiefs of First Nation Aboriginal Reserves. How much of the taxpayer’s money goes to improving the welfare of the rest of the people in those reserves? 
The Canadian Tax Foundation (CTF) said that data discovered raises questions about why chiefs earn more than other politicians who work full-time governing much larger populations.
Colin Craig, Prairie director for the CTF said, “We are not trying to unfairly expose anyone, but focus attention on some numbers that deserve a second look. I think people will be surprised by the figures.”
He also said, “The new transparency law is to empower the grassroots with information that can help them hold their leaders accountable.”
Aboriginal leaders encouraged by their politically correct supporters in our non-Aboriginal media and political elites have convinced themselves they are hard done by as down-trodden, neglected Indians. No matter how much they pay themselves, they have convinced themselves that non-Aboriginal leaders are being paid more. They are convinced that their  huge salaries and expenses are not out of line (in their minds), so therefore as far as they are concerned, their salaries and expenses are justified.                                                      
A month ago, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) released a report about on-reserve compensation based on partial statistics provided by the Indian Affairs department. At the time, the CTF calculated that 30 of the country’s 577 chiefs made more than the average — $110,000 – received by the 10 provincial premiers.
In all, nearly 60 chiefs examined in the CTF’s first assessment were paid more than $90,000 in 2008-09. And because their salaries were paid on-reserve, they were tax-free, the equivalent of about $155,000 for a non-Aboriginal Canadian who pays taxes on his earnings.
Now the federation has received more complete data from Indian Affairs and the truth is even more shocking than first feared. The CTF announced that last year at least 82 reserve politicians were paid more than the prime minister. Another 222 reserve politicians were paid more than their province’s premier, over 700 received an income that was equivalent to over $100,000 off reserve that is 40% higher than the income of the average Canadian family of four and one unnamed Atlantic Canada reserve politician was paid $978,468 tax-free, the equivalent to about $1.8 million in taxable income.
No wonder the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has resisted every legislative effort, from Liberal and Conservative governments alike, to encourage greater transparency and accountability for First Nations’ budgeting. And since the average on-reserve income is about $15,000, that means there are plenty of First Nations leaders making 10 times what their average constituents make. Who would want that widely and openly known?
Members of Parliament, provincial legislators and municipal councillors make more than twice what their average voters make. Meanwhile mayors, premiers and the PM make only three or four times more.
A lot of non-Aboriginal communities would quickly match this disparity if saddled with the same dysfunctional form of governance that exists among First Nations. Nearly all federal money to First Nations people flows through their band council. That means the money for most Aboriginal income, new houses and renovations to existing ones and most on-reserve jobs and contracts is first paid to the band council, which then gets to decide who gets what. And as God made little apples, Much of it goes to many of the chiefs.
Imagine the chances for graft, nepotism and arrogance from non-Aboriginal municipal politicians if much of our income was first paid to our mayors and councils, who then decided when we received our cheques and who would be lucky enough to get their home repaired this year.
Saskatoon Conservative MP Kelly Block has introduced a private member’s bill calling for all First Nations bands to disclose the salaries of chiefs and councillors. As to be expected, the AFN has dismissed the bill as “ill-conceived,” and charged that it betrays “a troubling series of insinuations about First Nations peoples, based on misinformation and lack of understanding.”  Yeah, sure. And pigs fly.
That might have been some truth to the assembly’s assertions after the CTF’s first disclosure about band council pay. But now, after the latest, more comprehensive revelations, there can be no more hiding behind claims of cultural differences and veiled accusations of racism.
The time has now come for ordinary standards of transparency and accountability which is applied to non-aboriginal governmental bodies be applied also to native leaders on Indian reserves.


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