Opinion

EDITORIAL: Internal biz

The Kwikwetlem First Nation has some healing to do after recent revelations about Chief Ron Giesbrecht’s hefty economic development payment that took many band members, and the wider community, by surprise.

But while some Tri-City residents may have concerns about the $914,000 in pay plus the $16,574 in expenses Giesbrecht earned in 2013, the fact is, it’s really none of our business. True, taxpayers’ dollars funded much of this remuneration package but most of the funds came from a 10% economic development payment from an $8.2-million land deal with the provincial government.

And from what we now know, the payout to the band is above board and part of the government’s due diligence on land with potential claims by First Nations.

As part of its duty to consult with the Kwikwetlem before selling off 584 acres of Crown land on Burke Mountain, the province paid the band $8.2 million in “economic development benefits” and Giesbrecht’s cut as economic development officer was about $800,000.

That 10% bonus structure has now been terminated and a new economic development company is being established with an independent board of directors. This may relieve some band concerns and it’s now a moot point as to whether all Kwikwetlem band members knew about the land deal in advance or approved the chief’s payment. As interested as we may all be in these developments, and sympathetic to band members who claim not to have known about this deal, the chief’s remuneration — whether large or small — is an internal issue for the band to sort out.

We can only hope the Kwikwetlem will use wisely the financial benefits owed to them by claim, entitlement and legal precedence. If it wasn’t for the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which has been roundly criticized by some native leaders, the band’s financial situation would never be known — to members or anyone else. For that, we have to credit the federal government.

As for what the Kwikwetlem will do next, it’s up to the band to decide. But with a large and growing bank account, and recent rumblings about claims on the Riverview lands, we have not heard the last from this small group.

 

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