Shuswap spending to be tested at the polls

LOTS OF LAND  Shuswap Chief Sam Paul and councillor Alice Paul emphasize the scale of their Nations traditional territory on October 29th at the Shuswap Band Office. Photo by Dan Walton
LOTS OF LAND Shuswap Chief Sam Paul and councillor Alice Paul emphasize the scale of their Nations traditional territory on October 29th at the Shuswap Band Office. Photo by Dan Walton

By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

As the Shuswap Band office and Kinbasket Development Corporation (KDC) reaffirm the justification of their top earners salaries, other band members are doubling down on claims of corruption and incompetence.

In a Tuesday, November 4th press release, the band reiterated the substantial economic growth thats been overseen by the incumbent government.

The development of lands from zero property tax base in 1998, to a development tax base in excess of $70 million in 2014.

However, claims are being made that there is no fair distribution of that money. According to a press release by Shuswap Band councillor Barb Cote citing internal documents as its source, the salaries of Chief Paul Sam and councillor Alice Sam in excess of $200,000 each over the 2013-2014 fiscal year are only a fraction of the money theyve collected through the band office in recent years.

Through honorariums, Chief Paul has claimed $1,055,798 since 2011, and Alice Sam has received $895,961 over that same time frame. It also states that KDC chief executive officer Dean Martin was paid $1,607,930 between 2011 and 2013 (data for 2014 was not available). None of that money was subject to income tax, according to the release. And, as of last March, the band was operating with a deficit of $758,092, it states. For the 2014 fiscal year, the band was allocated $668,282 from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for community economic development (down from $985,810 in 2013).

It was through self-administered agreements that the remuneration pay was primarily supported, said former Shuswap councillor Diana Cote. The KDC collects revenue from the Ministry of Forests, the Ministry of Transportation, BC Hydro, stumpage fees, Forest and Range agreements, Teck, CP Rail, sub-leases of on-reserve lands, and land taxation, she said.

In defence of the bands financials, the band offices press release cites how the current leadership oversaw the implementation of a strong taxation system; the preparation of attractive commercial real estate; the private installation of commercial and residential water and sewer service; and a relatively strong performance during the economic slowdown in 2008; the expensive and mandatory mitigation of badger habitat; and progress towards self-sufficiency.

But the economic prosperity has not trickled down says band member Audrey Eugene.

If you were doing a bang-up job looking after your community, we as band members would have defended your over-the-top wages, she said. If you are a good honest, caring leader, this should not ruffle your feathers.

Ms. Eugene said that its unethical how only a chosen few benefit, regardless of how the money is generated.

No one should be forced to live 34 years without their questions and concerns not properly dealt with, she said. It is frustrating, humiliating, and just downright unethical to be treated as we have been all these years.

Speaking anonymously, one former resident of the reserve said these concerns have been prevalent for a long time. He said that about 15 years ago, he phoned the Aboriginal Affairs department with accusations of Shuswap corruption, but was only paid lip service. He also said that inequality within Shuswap is not bound by race.

Everybodys getting paid under the table whether its white or native people,it doesnt matter, he said. Nobody polices them; they police themselves.

Leadership is currently on the line, with all three council members running for re-election today (Friday, November 7th). Shuswap members can vote for their next council at the band office.

The band offices press release closed with an expression of dismay regarding the concept of the Transparency Act, using a quote by Canadian indigenous writer Eden Robinson. Because of the act, every elected First Nation official in the country was publicly forced to prove they arent liars and cheats. In the potlatch culture, thats the equivalent of spitting in the communal dish and then demanding to sleep with the chiefs daughter.

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