Unlike their counterparts in Coquitlam who sparked an uproar over an $800,000 bonus for their chief, the Katzie First Nation paid its band council modest salaries last year, according to financial statements posted online.
Available publicly for the first time, the information follows the passage of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act in 2013, which requires aboriginal bands to publish audited financial statements of salaries and expenses online within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year.
The Pitt Meadows-based Katzie First Nation has a membership of 545, with 313 living on reserve and 226 living off the reserve.
Its current chief Susan Miller earned $16,500 in remuneration over five and a half months and logged $1,793 in expenses. Miller was elected chief last November after former Chief Ed Pierre resigned. She was acclaimed in January for a two-year term.
Although Miller welcomes accountability she believes the way the new act was forced upon First Nations was heavy handed.
“Transparency is important,” said Miller, adding that chief and council are firstly accountable to the Katzie people.
“This new legislation was created without any consultation with First Nations.
“We should be accountable to our own people and not to the Canadian taxpayer, particularly when it comes to our own source revenue.” Katzie First Nation councillors earned between $33,000 and $36,000 in 2013, slightly more than their counterparts at the City of Pitt Meadows who made $27,756.
The 81-member Kwikwetlem First Nation in Coquitlam was thrust into the national spotlight last week after it was revealed Chief Ron Giesbrecht had earned $914,000 last year — tax free.
But scanning through documents posted on the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website reveals that most band council received modest salaries.
Chief Miller agrees.
“The majority of Nations have worked within the funds available, whether that be garnered from own source revenues or government agreements,” she said.
Aboriginal Affairs stressed the Transparency Act was put into place to allow First Nation members to access financial data of the bands (about two thirds of the country’s bands failed to meet the July 29, 2014, deadline under the Transparency Act).
“First Nations community members will not have to request the information through Band offices, but still have the option to do so,” said minister Bernard Valcourt in a statement.
“With increased access to basic financial information, community members can make more informed decisions about the financial management and reporting of their elected officials.”
The Katzie First Nations reported earning a total revenue of $17,443,346 in 2013, with $12 million coming from the Province of B.C. It’s expenses were $4,664,709.