Disclosure of First Nations salaries raises eyebrows – by Mike De Souza (Toronto Star – July 30, 2014)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA—Records showing a native councillor with construction contracts worth $300,000, a chief with a six-figure salary, and an eight member band council each making about $6,500 annually are among dozens of revelations that emerged Tuesday under a new transparency law targeting First Nations leaders.

The information came from multiple First Nations communities across the country trying to meet a deadline set by the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which requires them to publish a range of annual business and financial records, including salaries and benefits.

The communities were previously only required to submit these records to the government without sharing them with the public.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada posted some of the records from at least 20 communities on its website Tuesday, including four Ontario First Nations, two from Manitoba, two from Saskatchewan and 10 from British Columbia.

In its own records, the Snuneymuxw First Nation in B.C., revealed that Eric Wesley, a councillor, received $307,201 in contracts for construction related services in the last fiscal year from his own community.

Chief John Thunder of the Buffalo Point First Nation in Manitoba earned $129,398 for the year in salaries and benefits. The community he represents is made up of less than 200 people.

But another community, the Delaware First Nation Morovian of the Thames Band had eight council members who earned an average of less than $6,500 for the year.

The Assembly of First Nations, which represents more than 600 aboriginal communities across the country, said the law was part of a “heavy-handed” Harper government propaganda strategy. The organization noted that the average elected official in aboriginal communities was making about $37,000 per year, based on 2010 estimates.

“Everything points to (an attempt) to build on the propaganda that aboriginal governments are dishonest,” said Ghislain Picard, interim chief of the Assembly of First Nations, in an interview. “That’s the thinking that’s out there and that’s what they keep building on.”

Wesley didn’t respond to a request for comment. Thunder told the Star in an email, that his salary was a bargain as a chief executive officer who has brought a lot of business to his community.

For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/07/29/disclosure_of_first_nations_salaries_raises_eyebrows.html