NEWS

Squamish Nation members demand financial report after manager removed

10/01/2014 09:59 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST
Some members of B.C.'s First Nation are calling for greater fiscal transparency in the wake of revelations that a band councillor has been removed from her management position following an independent financial audit.

In May, the Squamish Nation launched an investigation into how money earmarked for emergency use was being spent.

Last week, after reviewing the investigator's report, the Squamish Nation Chiefs and Council announced council co-chair Krisandra Jacobs would no longer be employed by the band as manager of communications and band services.

In a notice to band members recently posted on its website, Squamish Nation said its Chiefs and Council are now also reviewing the elected positions held by Jacobs and Glen Newman, the band manager.

"Chiefs and Council have sent a letter to each of the elected officials advising them of the possible outcomes that Chiefs and Council are considering respecting their elected positions and are offering to meet with each elected official separately to consider any additional information they may wish to provide," the notice stated.

Jacobs has been a band councillor and manager of communications since 1997. Newman has served on council for over 20 years. 

The notice says the Squamish Nation will reach its decision regarding their elected roles by Oct. 18 and release a summary of the facts to band members the following day. 

The investigator's report into the disbursement of the band's emergency funds is being kept confidential, according to the notice, for privacy and legal reasons.

Band members call for transparency

A small group of concerned Squamish band members took to the band office Tuesday afternoon, demanding a copy of the investigation report. They said they were denied.

Squamish band member Bev Brown said the report should be made public, and charges laid, if there’s been abuse of trust.

"Any democratic community would be privy to that information. If it was the provincial or federal government, it would be provided," said Brown.

"I feel like we are in the dark in terms of finances, period. We know where the federal funds come from because they provide it online and give it to you. With the own-source revenues, we're not even apprised of what companies we own and operate."

Own-source revenue is income from First Nation-owned projects and real estate holdings.

Squamish band member Jo-Ann Nahanee says the lack of details is fuelling rumours about band finances.

"We have little information about who asked for the independent investigation or why it was asked for," said Nahanee. "We have a right to that information."

Hazel Desharnais of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) said the matter is internal to the Squamish Nation, and the department did not call for the third-party investigation. 

"Our government expects First Nation band councils to use taxpayer dollars responsibly and for the benefit of all community members, which is why we brought in the First Nations Financial Transparency Act," Desharnais said via email.

As called for by that Act, the Squamish Nation posted its financial statements and a schedule of remuneration for chiefs and councillors this summer.

The projected 2014 operating budget for Squamish Nation was just under $60 million. The federal transfer to the band for 2013 from AANDC was $11.25 million.

Jacobs' salary as manager of communications and band services was $99,841 for 12 months, with expenses of $15,029. Newman earned $72,898 as band manager and had expenses totalling $27,327.

Neither Jacobs nor officials from the Squamish Nation responded to CBC’s requests for an interview.

The Squamish Nation has a registered population of over 4,000 members, about half of which live on reserve. Its traditional territory spans areas across downtown Vancouver, the North Shore, the Squamish area and Whistler.

MORE:cbcNews