Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Fort Nelson First Nation discloses salaries

William Stodalka / Alaska Highway News

The money paid out to Fort Nelson First Nation chief and council members last year varied widely, with some receiving less than $20,000 while others received more than $100,000.

 

This is part of what came out in new documents released by Fort Nelson First Nation late last month.

The documents showed both the remuneration – which includes salary, honoraria, and other forms of payment – and “incidental” and travel expenses for business done on behalf of the band. (Other Canadian elected officials are also reimbursed for similar costs.)

Chief Sharleen Gale received about $91,000 in remuneration, and $33,600 in expenses.

It showed that on average, for both of these figures, the seven chief and councillors received remuneration worth an average of $48,600, and travel expenses of about $9,000. Overall, this amounted to a total of about $402,600.

This is higher than the average salary of elected officials reported by the Assembly of First Nations in 2010, which put that number at around $36,900.

Of the five members of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, only one – the Prophet River First Nation – has had their financials posted on the Aboriginal Affairs website as of Wednesday morning. (Fort Nelson First Nation signed onto Treaty 8, but is not a member of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association.)

The First Nations Financial Transparency Act stipulates that First Nations, to whom the act applies, make audited consolidated financial statements, remuneration and expenses available to the

public.

An analysis of 106 of the 178 First Nations in B.C. remuneration statements that were also released this year showed that on average, chiefs who served 12 months with councils were paid $66,000, and $14,000 in various types of expenses.

They went as low as $4,400 in remuneration for Samahquam Chief Brenda Lester, to as high as $914,200 for Kwikwetlem Chief Ron Giesbrecht.

Councillors earned less on average across B.C. Councillors who served that long received about $31,700 in remuneration, and about $4,900 in travel expenses, respectively.

The numbers are complicated by the fact that some of these elected officials remuneration includes money they earn with jobs on reserve. Two councillors serving on the Fort Nelson First Nation council could match this description.

Theresa Fincaryk is listed as "culture revitalization manager" on the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council website.She was listed as having been paid $84,600 for both remuneration and expenses in this year's documents.

Another Fort Nelson First Nation councillor, Roberta Dendys, was also listed in an auto-response e-mail from Chief Sharleen Gale as "acting executive manager" for Fort Nelson.

(It's unclear how much of their respective funds came from these other positions, and how much came from their duties on chief and council.)

The councillor with the lowest remuneration and expenses was Curtis Dickie, who only received $12,200 for remuneration and about $5,300 in expenses. The second lowest was Vance Parson, who only received about $13,400 in remuneration and about $5,200 in expenses.

The Fort Nelson First Nation is also more proactive than some other First Nations when it comes to salary disclosure. Some First Nations do not post their financial statements and/or council remuneration online. Some did not do so by the deadline given to them under the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act, but the government recently extended their deadline.

But the Fort Nelson First Nation posted their salary information for the 2012-2013 year online before the new legislation came into effect.

Other First Nations, like The Dene Tha’ First Nation near Grande Prairie, posted their documents before the new legislation came into effect.

Those 2012-2013 documents showed that another executive director for the Fort Nelson First Nation – Scott Carle – received a total of $88,441 for his service to the Fort Nelson First Nation.

It also showed that overall, the Fort Nelson First Nation spent about $316,000 on council officials before and after the 2013 election, and about $416,300 when Carle and the band's director of finance, Sam Sen, were also included. With extra travel expenses, this came out to about $472,000.

Fort Nelson First Nation also released information about how much money their government had in their last fiscal year. They reported net financial assets of about $54.3 million.

In their 2014 budget, Fort Nelson First Nation reported budgeted revenues of $17.1 million. The biggest sources of income were from the Federal department of Aboriginal Affairs, which provided about $4.5 million. The second was "other revenue" at $4.1 million, followed by the province of B.C., at about $2.9 million.

The budgeted expenses were around $13.9 million.

The biggest budgeted expenses went towards education, at about $3.8 million, followed by economic development, at about $2.3 million. The third was administration, which went at $1.9 million. (The documents do not state if the pay given out to chief and council is included in these figures.)

The band government spent about $881,000 on health, and about $3 million on capital and capital asset fund expenses.

It budgeted about $518,000 on band and social housing, as well. The Fort Nelson First Nation has a population of about 360 people living on reserve, and 890 people in total, according to Statistics Canada figures.

The Fort Nelson First Nation has its own independent school, the Chalo School. It has about 200 pupils from Grades 3 to 12, according to its website. School District 81 – which operates in the Fort Nelson area – has about 770 students enrolled for 2014-2015, and it receives $5.3 million in operating grants from the provincial government next year.

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