“Peguis was $10 million in debt 11 years ago…According to Indian Affairs’ own protocols, the community’s debt should have triggered the department to place its finances in the hands of a third party manager in 1999.”
“The previous chief ran a dictatorship here…I’m just maintaining the status quo.” Peguis Band Chief Glenn Hudson.
Let’s see now…$31 million per year to the band, divided by 3660 residents, equals a subsidy of $8,470.00 per head.
$20 million owed by the Band equals $5,464.50 debt per head. It also equals not quite 8 months of their annual subsidy.
And the Chief is paid $170,000 a year, totally tax-free.
Time for the taxpayers to react! See information at bottom of post.
Rotting ‘first nation’, wealthy chief
Brett Popplewell: Oct. 29th, 2010
PEGUIS FIRST NATION, MAN.—As the leader of one of the country’s largest and most indebted First Nations, Glenn Hudson has attracted the ire of his community, the media, the general public and the department of Indian Affairs.
With a tax-free income of $206,381 (the taxable equivalent of $355,107) in 2009, Hudson’s remuneration exceeds that of the prime minister, who earned a taxable $310,800 that year.
It’s a sore point for many of his people who live in mould-infested houses, 65 per cent of which Indian and Northern Affairs Canada says should be either condemned or renovated.
That juxtaposition of rich and poor on this perpetually saturated flood plain 150 kilometres north of Winnipeg attracted the Toronto Star.
With $20 million of debt, Peguis, which spends more taxpayer dollars than the $31 million per year that it’s allotted, is one of at least 157 First Nations in financial trouble. But the financial mismanagement of this community has been a problem for years.
Peguis was $10 million in debt 11 years ago.
According to Indian Affairs’ own protocols, the community’s debt should have triggered the department to place its finances in the hands of a third party manager in 1999.
That didn’t happen.
Eleven years on, with Peguis rotting both financially and structurally, the community’s finances have only recently been placed under partial management of a Saskatchewan-based consulting firm which, according to Hudson, is getting paid $210,000 a year to help balance the community’s finances.
It’s a drizzly Tuesday afternoon in Peguis. Outside, the muddy, potholed roads that cut through this community of 3,660 Ojibwa and Cree Indians are relatively quiet, the result of too much rain and too little to do.
Inside the dilapidated shopping mall, there’s a lineup of community members, young and old, gathered outside Hudson’s office. They’ve come to vent their frustrations to the chief, who, for the past two weeks, has been holidaying in South Africa while his people swept floodwater out of their homes.
Hudson is the signing authority on all matters related to the band. He decides who gets to go to university on the band’s dime, who gets an all-expenses-paid funeral, and who gets a new house. He also decides what his own salary will be.
As chief, he used band finances to back a $170,055 mortgage on his own home and has hired the engineering firm that used to employ him to handle all the claims put forward by band members who have the misfortune of getting flooded every summer. He defends the latter action as giving business to an Indian-run engineering company rather than “some white” firm from Winnipeg.
Inside the chief’s simple, pre-fab office there’s no computer on his desk, only a calendar, a notebook and a clipping from a local newspaper saying the chief and council are doing a stand-up job.
Asked to comment on accusations that his salary is exorbitantly high, the 42-year old industrial engineer-turned chief is quick to point out that he makes less than his predecessor, Louis Stevenson, chief for 26 years. In Stevenson’s outgoing year of 2006-2007, he earned a tax-free $373,011 — the taxable equivalent of $665,984.
Hudson’s also quick to point out that Stevenson, who was arrested in 2000 after brandishing a hand gun inside a Winnipeg bar, was known for attracting controversy to the community.
Stevenson did not respond to the Star’s requests for an interview.
“The previous chief ran a dictatorship here,” Hudson says. “I’m just maintaining the status quo.”
Unfortunately for many people in Peguis, the status quo is abject poverty.
Take, for example, Miranda Daniels, a 25-year-old mother of two living in a mould-infested condemned home with her two and three year old sons.
“They tell me I shouldn’t be living in here,” she says. “But I have no place else to go.”
With a Grade 12 education, Daniels tried to live in Winnipeg, but having grown up in Canada’s reserve system, she says she felt like a Third World immigrant in a city known for its native gangs and ghettos. So she moved back to Peguis with her children and joined the more than 1,000 people collecting welfare here, and added her young family to the list of 600 others waiting for community housing.
Hers is a story echoed by a number of young families living in homes that reek of rot.
“I don’t understand how we are allowed to live like this,” Daniels says. “The chief lives in a new house while we live in this.”
In April, Chuck Strahl, then minister of Indian Affairs, wrote a letter to Hudson citing “financial management, transparency and accountability challenges” as cause for stripping Hudson of some of his powers and strongly suggested that the chief and council take a 20 per cent pay cut.
Hudson, who says his salary has now dropped to $170,000 a year (the taxable equivalent of $287,231), says he and his band councillors are being punished by Indian Affairs, embarrassed into action by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation — which had used Hudson’s salary as a rallying cry to demand transparency and accountability on reserves across the country.
“When you go pressure and lobby the federal government, they’re going to react, and that’s what Chuck Strahl did,” says Hudson.
“I can show you numbers where we were 40 and 45 per cent in deficit back in 1999. Why didn’t the minister step in (then)?”
Anna Fontaine, regional director for Indian Affairs in Winnipeg, won’t specify why the department cracked down on Peguis but insists it wasn’t because of public pressure.
Whatever the cause, Hudson is adamant that the only way for his people to climb out of the financial mess they are in is to do it themselves. He says Indian Affairs won’t help them, hasn’t helped them, never will help them.
The Peguis band moved to their current reserve lands in 1907, when they were illegally relocated from their traditional territory in Selkirk, Man.
In 2009, Hudson inked a deal with the government, formally surrendering the band’s claim on land’s now occupied by the city of Selkirk.
The community’s surrender claim is valued at $118 million, which Hudson says will be used to help build much-needed housing and infrastructure.
“They moved us onto a flood plain and took our land,” he says. “Now they’re mad at our salaries?”
“We opened up this country for settlement based on our treaties. We have been given the short end of the stick in terms of what should come back to us as nations.
“(Taxes) are not the basis of what is paying our salary. It’s the rich natural resources that Canada and all Canadians benefit from that is paying our salary.”
See original here.
Visit the “First Nations Financial Transparency Act” category here, for further background and information on how to take action.