Members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation are demanding their chief resign and an immediate audit be conducted over revelations his total salary amounted to almost $1-million last year.
Figures released under a new federal law showed Chief Ron Giesbrecht was paid an $800,000 bonus, and band member Ron Jackman said late on Friday that at least half of the small First Nation of 80 people stand behind a call to remove Mr. Giesbrecht from office.
Mr. Jackman said the group wants Mr. Giesbrecht gone by next Friday or it will hold an emergency meeting of the band to remove him.
“There’s been outrage because people are struggling and he’s kept $800,000 for himself,” said Mr. Jackman, adding that he stepped forward to speak for those opposed to the chief.
He said band members knew the money came into the community as a result of a business deal, but did not know that much had gone to Mr. Giesbrecht.
Mr. Jackman, a 39-year-old band member and student at the B.C. Institute of Technology, said that in June, members of the community were mailed $10,000 cheques as part of that deal.
The financial statements of Canada’s First Nations began appearing on the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs website this week for the first time as a result of the new transparency act, which received royal assent in 2013. The First Nations Financial Transparency Act was a response to concern that some band members could not obtain financial information from their leaders. It requires First Nations to submit audited financial statements on all band revenue and expenses.
The disclosures revealed that Mr. Giesbrecht, chief of the small first nation near Coquitlam, B.C., was paid $914,219 last year, including the $800,000 bonus calculated as a 10-per-cent cut of economic development investments.
Mr. Giesbrecht said on Friday that he was surprised by the bonus. The community said Mr. Giesbrecht is paid $4,800 annually as chief, and in his role as economic development officer, he was entitled to a 10-per-cent commission on profitable business ventures.
“Whoever thought the bonus would be this much? I tell you, I never would have,” he is quoted as saying in Tri-Cities Now.
Mr. Geisbrecht told the suburban Vancouver newspaper the community had six projects on his watch, including an $8.5-million contract linked to a mass transit line.
The chief did not return requests for an interview by The Globe and Mail. However, he told Global News he is talking to his members. “This story is important to me, as I have to answer to my people.”
While the paycheque revelations have led to outrage in Coquitlam, another B.C. chief was left fuming over a process he regarded as unfair.
The reports show that Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie, often praised for his business savvy by the Conservative government, was paid $146,369 last year. The high-profile leader said it is unfair of the government to publish a total that combines his chief’s salary and income related to his work with the band’s companies.
Mr. Louie said his pay as chief is about $18,000 a year. He has asked his accountant to produce a breakdown of his compensation so he can better answer questions about it. In addition to being chief, Mr. Louie is the band administrator, and is CEO of the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation.
“You shouldn’t be combining my salary [as chief] with the other jobs I do,” he said in an interview, comparing it to forcing a small-town mayor to disclose private business income.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with disclosing what the taxpayers call tax money, but First Nations’ self-generated income is not tax money,” he said, arguing that the latter should be accessible only to band members.
Andrea Richer, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, said that members of a First Nation should have access to details of how businesses are run on their behalf.