Ditidaht chief paid $118,340 salary last year
Martin Wissmath / Alberni Valley Times
Three First Nations with offices in Port Alberni published their financial statements, including pay received by their chiefs and councillors, to comply with a new transparency law.
The Ditidaht, Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations have their information published on the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website. The Huu-ay-aht have yet to publish their statements with the department, although the original deadline passed on July 29. Last week, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt extended the deadline until November.
Ditidaht Chief Jack G. Thompson was paid $85,372 and claimed $32,968 in expenses for the 12 months ending March 31, for a total of $118,340.
Ditidaht Coun. Terry Edgar received $71,441 in remuneration last year and $3,238 in expenses. Councillors Carl Edgar and Margaret Eaton were paid $28,400 and $27,201 respectively. Edgar claimed $23,752 in expenses and Eaton $7,354.
Coun. Jack. K. Thompson received $17,667 in remuneration and $17,617 in expenses.
The Ditidaht have a registered population of 768, with 520 people living off reserve. Their traditional lands are southeast of Port Alberni, stretching from Nitinat Lake to Lake Cowichan.
Hupacasath chief councillor Steven Tatoosh's pay last year was $61,871 in salary and travel expenses. Councillor and forestry manager Warren Lauder received a total of $66,489. Councillor Jim Tatoosh was paid a total of $11,118.
Tseshaht chief councillor Hugh Braker was paid $66,000 last year and expensed $20,514. Braker earned $55,000 more than the highest paid councillor, Gina Pearson. Pearson received $10,858 in remuneration and $472 in expenses. Coun. Debra Foxcroft earned $9,578 and expensed $2,568 during her six months as a councillor.
Braker told the Alberni Valley Times the Tseshaht have been notifying members of financial information for more than two years.
"We've been doing more than is required by the transparency act," Braker said.
"We publish on Tseshaht Facebook pages a complete disclosure to our membership of all chief and council honourariums, and all chief and council travel. We do it two or three times a year, it just depends on how soon we can get the reports from the finance department. We also distribute to all of our members copies of our audit each year."
The Tseshaht chief councillor said it's important for members to know where their money is going and to maintain confidence in their leadership. He believes transparency with the Canadian public is a good idea but regrets the way the new law has been implemented.
"I think it's good, but the way it's all been done, it's a bit paternalistic. I think here we have the government imposing it on First Nations instead of reaching an agreement with First Nations. The government, I would remind you, does not disclose as much as we disclose to our members."
The Tseshaht have a population of 1,131, with 673 living off the reserve.
The Huu-ay-aht and other First Nations that have not yet complied with the transparency law have been granted a 120-day extension by Aboriginal Affairs. According to the federal department, 275 of 582 First Nations across Canada have published their information so far.
First Nations could face penalties and lose government funding for failing to comply with the transparency law.