Wednesday 4 March 2015

Some Canadian Indian chiefs are ripping off the taxpayers and band members

In Canada, government programs for Aboriginal people have been implemented by the federal government and some of the provinces for many years. Historically the Government of Canada has recognized special program responsibilities and obligations towards financially assisting Aboriginal people who are living on their reservations. Their needs of the Aboriginals are left to be met by whatever programs provincial governments might implement from time to time. The Chief’s of the Indian bands are responsible to see that the money received by the governments is used for the betterment of the Aboriginals living on their reservations. The money originally comes from taxpayers in Canada. For this reason, it is important that the money received by Indian bands is used wisely and definitely for the welfare of the members of each Indian band who are living on the reservations.                    

A substantial shift in federal policy and program orientation has occurred since the early 1950s. Aboriginal cultures are allowed to have free expression; Aboriginal political organizations are recognized and funded and Aboriginal bands and Inuit organizations have taken over responsibility for some of the government program administration. In other words, the chiefs of each band handle the money when it comes in based upon the expectation that they will share it with the other members of the band living on their reservations. But does this happen in some of those reservations?

Ida and Ed Rivers live on the Shuswap Nation reserve near Invermere in British Columbia. They have no running water and pay for a porta potty out of their own pocket. Three years without running water have taught Ida and Ed Rivers the importance of creativity. As winter approaches, that means pulling Ed’s sweat socks over the toilet seat in their porta-potty to protect their backsides from the cold. In the spring and summer, neighbours let them hook up an RV to an outdoor water source. But when winter comes and the pipes freeze, Ida and Ed are forced to make two or three trips each week to a nearby spring.

The couple have visited the band office several times to request a water hookup, but their requests were unfulfilled. Now since money was being given to the band by the government of B.C., why couldn’t their request which is obviously reasonable be fulfilled? That question is easy to answer.

Shuswap First Nation Chief Paul Sam, (age 80) his ex-wife Alice Sam, their son Dean Martin and a now-deceased grandson had pulled in more than $4.1 million in remuneration over the past four years. The chief receives a salary of $264,000 which is tax-free. His son, Dean Martin, is doing even better, with an average annual salary of $536,000 for running a band corporation that operates various businesses on and near the reserve. Chief Sam and his former wife both reported salaries of $202,000, their lowest in the four years. The chief’s top salary was just under $300,000 in 2010-11, while the top year for Alice Sam was 2011-12 when she earned $242,000. Dean Martin, said that his father the band manager, while his mother is the bookkeeper.  Wow. I worked as a bookkeeper for a large firm and I never got a salary like that. My salary was nowhere near her salary. In fact, the difference in her salary and mine was in comparison, a drop in a bucket. 

The band took in just over $900,000 in 2013-14 from the federal Aboriginal Affairs and Health departments. Some of that money could have solved the problems that Ida and Ed Rivers are continuously facing. The small band has 267 members, with only 87 living on the reserve who also probably have problems that could have been solved if it wasn’t for the apparent greed of the chief and his family.

In the meantime, Ida and Ed Rivers have to pay $150 each month to rent the porta-potty, plus $65 every two weeks to empty it. Further, they have gone without electricity or heat and when they asked the band for help, none was forthcoming so they were forced to foot the bill for BC Hydro to run cables out to their home. To cover their expenses, Ida works two jobs and Ed, who is disabled doesn’t receive welfare or a pension from the provincial or federal governments. That is because it is the responsibility of the band. Despite that, Ed receives no money from the band. Why is that? The money goes to the chief and his family. You can be sure that those people have water for their toilets, electricity without having to have electrical cables hooked up to their homes and are not short of money.

I am a taxpayer and I am pissed off but not as pissed off as the members of the band who are in all likelihood, suffering to some degree like Ida and Ed are.  When a band member’s home caught fire a few years back, firefighters discovered that the closest hydrant wasn’t hooked up to a water supply. You can be sure that the water supply to the homes of the band’s chief and his family were hooked up.

A dissident Councillor, who earns $57,700 annually, said she was unaware until recently that Chief Sam and the only other councillor, ex-wife Alice Sam, 82, were earning such big salaries.

The Chief and his son are the highest-paid politicians on an after-tax basis not only among First Nations leaders but also among all Canadian politicians, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper earns $327,400 and B.C. Premier Christy Clark earns $193,532. Dean Martin and band media relations spokesman Gord Martin (related to the chief and family naturally) said their parents’ hard work and longevity justify salaries higher than a prime minister.

What does longevity have to do with one’s salary? When I was a kid and lived on a farm, I fed hogwash to the pigs every day. If I fed them the same crappy hogwash that Dean and Gord Martin are feeding the press, the pigs would vomit. 

Dean Martin said, “We’re not just a band, we are a nation, and to lead it for 34 years, is something totally unheard of’. Canada is a nation of 33 million people and it has been around far more than 34 years and the prime ministers never get as much as he and his daddy do. His hogwash is so putrid, even if the pigs were starving, they would rather starve to death than put that crap in their bellies. A spin like the one that man is giving us would make the prop of a plane look like it is moving in slow motion.

Here is another Indian band that has been ripped off by their chief. Two months after discovering that their chief collected an $800,000 bonus for signing away 236 hectares of their land thereby effectively making him the highest paid elected official in Canada, members of the Vancouver-area Kwikwetlem First Nation are suing to have the deal overturned. Did the chief have the band members best interests at heart? Does a chicken have lips? Does that chief have brains? Did he really think he would get away with that abuse?

In July of last year, documents made public by the First Nations Financial Transparency Act revealed that Kwikwetlem Chief Ron Giesbrecht made $914,219 tax free for the 2013/2014 fiscal year. Most of Chief Giesbrecht’s income was due to him receiving a 10% cut of an $8-million payment made by the Province of British Columbia for the sale of the land belonging to the band. That 10% cut should have been applied to the needs of the members of his band and not to his own needs to feather his nest.  Admittedly, each of the band’s 82 members received $10,000 as part of the province’s $8-million payment for the Burke Mountain lands. There is a vast difference between $10,000 and $800,000. Actually, if he was a decent man, he would  place his bonus in the band’s bank and apply it to upgrading the band’s buildings and roads etc.

The lawsuit, at Vancouver Federal Court, alleges that Chief Giesbrecht breached his duty to “obtain the free, prior and informed consent” of his people before selling part of the band’s land. Much of the land is slated to be turned into subdivisions as part of an expansion of the City of Coquitlam. The band wants their land back and if they get it, the province will go after their chief for the $800,000 bonus he paid himself along with the balance of the $8 million the band was paid. If they consent to the sale of the land, they still will go after the chief for the $800,000 he paid himself as his bonus.

It  is true That Mr. Giesbrecht earned only $4,800 in his role as chief of the 82-member Metro Vancouver nation however, he was paid an $800,000 bonus in 2013-14 because he was also serving as the band’s economic development officer, a job that gave him $80,000 a year and a 10% cut of all new “capital projects and business opportunities.  He should never have been given a cut of capital projects and business opportunities. Certainly not when  he was paid $80,000 a year.

First Nation chiefs overseeing small bands earn considerably more than mayors running large towns and cities across Canada, comparisons compiled by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have revealed. Chief John Thunder of Buffalo Point, Manitoba, who runs a reserve of 40 people, earns the real-world equivalent of $185,000 that is double what Shari Decter Hirst, the mayor of Brandon, population 46,000, makes.

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.

Resisting calls to step down, Mr. Giesbrecht reiterated previous claims that the sum he got as a bonus came as a surprise to him. Oh, give me a break. That surprise he says he got is no different than the surprise we all get when the sun rises in the east and set in the west.

According to documents obtained by the National Post, Mr. Giesbrecht incorporated V.R.T. Forming in Alberta in 1998 with his brother, Randy. Within two years, the company had failed to file official returns with the Province of Alberta, and was subsequently disbanded two years later. And this man is the band’s chief?  How did he get elected? 

The governments, both provincial and federal have a responsibility to the members of all Aboriginal Indian bands to protect the members from the kinds of abuses these two chiefs and their families have thrust in the faces of their fellow members. Until that happens, these abuses will continue at the expense of those members of the bands who are entitled to better leadership. This responsibility should apply all over Canada. Those members who are ripped off shouldn’t have to look to the courts for redress. And that also goes for us taxpayers whose money is being used to fulfill these chief’s greed. 

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