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27892Data posted online show Island chiefs get no big bonuses

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  • Don
    Aug 8, 2014
      Data posted online show Island chiefs get no big bonuses
      SARAH PETRESCU / TIMES COLONIST
      AUGUST 8, 2014 07:08 AM
      Financial snapshots posted online by a dozen Vancouver Island First Nations under new federal legislation show a diverse range of salaries, expenses, budgets and assets — and no million-dollar bonuses.

      The picture is not yet complete because only about a third of Island bands have posted audited financial statements, salaries and expenses as required under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which came into effect July 29.
      They have until November to do this for the previous fiscal year, or could face a loss in funding or a court order, says Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt.
      Island data that have been posted reveals that, in some cases, councillors made more than chiefs, and travel expenses were greater than salaries. The information does not break down multiple jobs done by one person, such as a chief who also acts as legal counsel or a councillor who also manages the band office.
      “It’s hard to compare when the settings, needs and expertise are different for every First Nation,” said Bob Chamberlin, chief of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis on northern Vancouver Island near Alert Bay. “For me, being elected chief councillor is a 24-7 job. Many of us are related to those we represent, so it’s a non-stop political dialogue — weddings, funerals, dinners — where you could be held accountable.”
      Chamberlin was elected chief in 2005. There are about 300 members, of whom 25 live in the traditional village site of Gilford Island, where residents were under a boil-water advisory for nine years before redevelopment. Chamberlin’s pay for 2013-14 was $25,962, including expenses but no employment or health benefits.
      He said it is what his band could afford. “When you consider some of our members on social assistance are living on $200 a month and can’t afford food, it’s a lot. I mean, this is Canada and most people don’t know this.” The public has misconceptions about living conditions on reserves and how First Nations operate, Chamberlin said.
      The $800,000 economic development bonus paid to Chief Ron Giesbrecht of Kwikwetlem First Nation near Coquitlam is not the norm, Chamberlin said. “I’m hoping the sensationalism switches to a better understanding, and that a chief making $50,000 a year is not a sin, considering the level of resources and skill set they have.”
      Chamberlin rents a home in Nanaimo and supplements his income with another honorarium for being vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
      He said it’s difficult to compare the job of chief to a mayor or MLA, and likened it to being the CEO of a corporation, with multimillion-dollar budgets, land leases, businesses, capital projects and government partnerships to consider. This is in addition to social issues, health care, treaty negotiations and cultural preservation.
      “You need to attract the brightest and the best for this,” Chamberlin said. “The roles of chief and council have greatly expanded. Each one who takes on the role now has to familiarize themselves with a lot of policy and specialized information, depending on their territory and community.”
      Some First Nations leaders are concerned about financial audits made public by the new act.
      “What worries me most is that people are going to manipulate that information,” said Judith Sayers, former chief and chief negotiator of the Hupacasath First Nation, a lawyer and professor at the University of Victoria. “Anybody can go and see the financial situation, where they are vulnerable, and use that in a negotiation or dismiss them as a possible partner.”
      Chief James Delorme of the Klahoose First Nation on Cortes Island said he has mixed feelings about the new regulations.
      “I do like parts of the act that tackle accountability for First Nations,” he said.
      “The pitfalls are First Nations are now vulnerable because they have to disclose all of their business. But our competitors don’t have to do that.”
      WHAT THEY MADE
      Remuneration for some Island chiefs for 2013-14. The figures do not include a breakdown of multiple jobs or expenses unless noted.
      • Bob Chamberlin, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis/Alert Bay: $25,962
      • James Delorme, Klahoose/Cortes Island: $55,546
      • Charlie Williams, Gwawaenuk/Port McNeill: $35,225
      • Paddy Walkus, Gwa’Sala-’Nakwaxda’xw/ Port Hardy: $22,400
      • Patricia Cassidy, Qualicum: $53,200
      • David Bob, Nanoose: $50,134
      • Don Tom, Tsartlip/Brentwood Bay: $6,006 (three months)
      • Ivan Morris, Tsartlip/Brentwood Bay: $15,444 (nine months)
      • Tom Wallace, Tlatlasikwala/Port Hardy: $65,835 plus $73,744 travel
      • Doug White III, Snuneymuxw/Nanaimo: $108,022 (10 months)
      • Rupert Wilson Sr., Kwakiutl/Port Hardy: $9,808 (eight months) plus $23,211 expenses
      • Richard Thomas, Lyackson/Chemainus: $68,296
      • John Elliot, Stz’uminus/Ladysmith: $87,650
      • Bruce Underwood, Pauquachin/Sidney: $15,600
       
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