Angry Coquitlam First Nation members react to chief’s $914,000 salary
The Chief of a B.C. First Nation is in hot water after his salary was made public by a new federal law requiring First Nations to reveal the earnings of their chiefs and councillors.
The financial disclosure for the Kwikwetlem First Nation in Coquitlam shows that Chief Ron Giesbrecht received more than $914,000 last year plus another $16,000 in expenses.
Giesbrecht’s reserve has a total of 81 people registered, but only 35 people actually reside there.
Giesbrecht told Global News on Thursday that he gets $80,000 a year for economic development.
With that, the Chief says, come the ‘benefits’ that work out to about $120,000.
$800,000 of his salary is an “economic development bonus,” for generating $8 million worth of economic activity.
“I get a percentage of the money I bring in to the nation,” says Giesbrecht.
He says he was “surprised” by how much income he was able to generate for the nation in the amount of time that he was an economic development officer.
Global News caught up again with Geisbrecht on Friday at the band office, but he wouldn’t give details about how people in his community feel about his salary, now that it has been made public.
“I am talking to membership right now and informing them on everything that has happened,” says Giesbrecht. “This story is important to me, as I have to answer to my people.”
Giesbrecht promised more information would be released on Wednesday.
He then walked away and refused to answer any more questions from Global News. Our reporter Jas Johal was then asked to leave the premises.
Although Giesbrecht refused to comment Friday on what his band members were saying about his salary, a meeting was held Friday afternoon outside the band office, with many angry members of the First Nation.
“Earning $900,000 for a tiny little nation of 85 is the height of stupidity,” said band member Glen Joe. “Every First Nation is laughing at us right now that Ron got away with this.”
“We think that it’s wrong that he did it, and we will be asking for independent audit,” said another band member. “I believe he should resign.”
Jordan Bateman with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls Giesbrecht’s salary “an outrageous waste of money.”
“Taxpayers, Coquitlam First Nations reserve members and people who support good Aboriginal policy in this country should be absolutely outraged that someone would walk out of the door with more than $900,000,” says Bateman.
“If Coquitlam has the kind of money to throw around for a $800,000 bonus, maybe the federal government should look at cutting their funding and reallocating it to some of the First Nations that do not have this luxury.”
WATCH: The financial disclosure for the Kwikwetlem First Nation chief has angered members of the band. Catherine Urquhart reports.
Bateman says he hopes the members of the Coquitlam First Nation will question their Chief’s salary.
“It is important that our citizens understand that their leadership are working within a budget, within reasonable policies,” says Grand Chief and Sto:lo Tribal Council President Doug Kelly. “The opportunity is available through an annual audit to see what has been going on with the community and its administration.”
Kelly says the entire annual budget of Sto:lo Tribal Council is $450,000.
“So I cannot relate to that level of compensation,” he adds.
Kelly says he has been a Chief of his community from 2001 to 2005 and was paid a monthly honorarium of $333 a month.
“Most of the eight chiefs that are a part of the Sto:lo Tribal Council receive very modest incomes. It is either a monthly rate or an annual salary that would range from a modest $15,000 a year to maybe $60,000 a year, depending on the size of the community and the amount of funding they are responsible for,” says Kelly.
WATCH: Chief Councillor Ellis Ross from the Haisla First Nation talks about the First Nations Transparency Act on BC1
The Office of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development released a statement to Global News saying,
Our Government expects First Nation band councils to use tax payer dollars responsibly and for the benefit of all community members which is why we brought in the First Nation Transparency Act.
The reported salary of the Chief is very troubling and his community members deserve an explanation.