Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Local First Nations fail to meet disclosure deadline

Arthur Williams / Prince George Citizen

Four of the five First Nations with offices in Prince George have not publicly posted their chiefs' and councilors' annual pay, despite a federal deadline last month to do so.

 

Of the five local First Nations -Kwadacha, Lheidli T'enneh, Tsay Keh Dene, Takla Lake and Yakooche -only the Kwadacha Nation has filed its audited financial statements and council remuneration with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to be posted online. However the Lheidli T'enneh have posted audited financial statements from previous calendar years available on their website.

According to documents posted online by AANDC, Kwadacha Chief Donny Van Somer was paid $107,922 in the financial year ending on March 31, and claimed $35,544 in expenses.

Deputy Chief Rasmussen McCook and councillors Diane McCook, Darryle McCook and Mary Jean Poole were paid between $27,533 and $66,266 by the Kwadacha Nation. They claimed expenses ranging from $877 to $14,538 for the year. The First Nation is located near Fort Ware, but has an administrative office in Prince George.

Tsay Keh Dene general manager Adi Sulaeueman said the First Nation is working to comply with the disclosure requirements.

"We are a bit behind here... we have gone through some [staff] turnover," Sulaeueman said. "We're working with the auditor and the auditor will resume work on Monday. Slowly, but surely, we'll get there."

Spokespeople for Kwadacha, Lheidli T'enneh, Takla Lake and Yakooche could not be reached Wednesday.

Under the First Nation Financial Transparency Act, aboriginal groups had until July 29 to post their audited financial statements online, and report the pay of their chiefs and councillors. According to information released by AANDC, of the 582 First Nations governments across Canada subject to the act, 275 have submitted their financial reports to the federal government - and 250 have been posted online by AANDC. The remaining 25 financial reports are currently being reviewed by government staff prior to publicly posting the documents.

"First Nation band councils are expected to comply with the disclosure provisions in the First Nation Financial Transparency Act," a statement by aboriginal affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's office said. "Bands which failed to comply so by the deadline - which was July 29 2014 - will receive several formal reminders. After 120 calendar days, if there is no resolution, for bands that are refusing to comply with the law, the government will take action according to the provisions of the law, which could include withholding of funding."

The purpose of the law is to apply, "the same principles of transparency and accountability to First Nations governments that already exist for other governments in Canada," the statement said.

REGIONAL PICTURE

Of 20 First Nations in the greater Prince George region, 12 have financial statements and chief and council remuneration information posted online through AANDC.

Of the First Nations reporting, Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Richard Peters was the highest paid in the 2013-14 financial year, earning $123,033 and claiming $32,291 in expenses.

Cheslatta Carrier councillor Hazel Burt was the highest-paid First Nation councillor in the region (of the 12 reporting), earning $67,896 and claiming $14,516 in expenses. The other position on the three-person council was filled by Ted Jack for 10 months of the year and Michael Charlie for the remaining two months.

Between them, Jack and Charlie earned $71,712 and claimed $9,800 in expenses.

Regionally, Lhtako Dene Nation Chief Clifford LeBrun was the lowest paid, earning only $34,363 and claiming $10,125 in expenses.

Pay for First Nations' councillors varied substantially, even among councillors for the same First Nation.

Nadleh Whut'en councillor George George Sr. was amongst the lowest paid councillors in the region, earning only $14,400 over 12 months, while council colleague Beverly Kello earned $51,229 in the same year.

For comparison, Mayor Shari Green was paid $94,162 last year and Prince George city councillors are paid a base rate of $31,394 per year.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was paid $154,347 last year, according to the City of Vancouver, and Vancouver city councillors earn $67,994 per year.

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