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Aboriginal Affairs decries severance pay for chief convicted of sexual assault

Aboriginal Affairs Canada is criticizing severance being paid out to a Saskatchewan First Nation chief convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl.

Terry McArthur of the Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation was sentenced last week to nine months in jail after pleading guilty to inappropriately touching a 16-year-old girl.

McArthur has resigned and will be paid for the remainder of his term plus severance — nearly $48,000.

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"Terrance McArthur does not deserve severance pay of any amount, and the idea of severance for a convicted child sex offender is reprehensible," Erica Meekes, press secretary for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt told The Canadian Press in an email Tuesday.

"We strongly urge (the band) council to modify their policies and take back the severance pay."

Officials at the First Nation were not immediately available for comment.

The band council said in a news release Monday that it had agreed to pay McArthur $47,625.

The terms and conditions outlined in the release said McArthur and his family "have been threatened and attacked if he does not resign immediately."

It also said some of the band members "have viciously slandered" the chief in the media.

"Whereas, Chief Terrance McArthur has been slandered it is now difficult for him to carry out his public duties," said the release.

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Word of the severance bothered several organizations.

Abby Ulmer, a councillor at the Regina Sexual Assault Centre, said a guilty plea saves the victim from having to testify. But the idea of severance sends a strange message.

"I know that people often would see that as a totally separate issue, that because he was chief he's entitled to severance or this, that or the other thing. But I just think it really sends a confusing message to people, almost like 'OK, I've pleaded guilty to this, but meanwhile I'm going to get a large payout.'

"That just, I think, is very confusing to people because it sounds like even after all this has gone on that he gets a large prize as it were."

Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation called the severance "pretty absurd," but not surprising.

He said members of the First Nation are probably upset by the payout, which could come from taxpayers or band-owned businesses.

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"We always stress that there's lots of good communities out there where this type of thing isn't happening, but certainly when you hear of someone getting a $47,000 severance payment to go and sit in jail, it just makes no sense whatsoever," Craig said from Winnipeg.

McArthur had refused repeated demands from community members to step down as chief after he pleaded guilty in May.

The chief submitted his resignation July 30, but councillor Gaylene McArthur, who is not related, has said the band held off announcing his resignation on the advice of legal counsel.

McArthur's lawyer has filed an appeal of the sentence.

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