Attawapiskat chief: I never agreed to 3rd-party manager
Published Sunday, December 11, 2011 10:32PM EST
A key issue in the Attawapiskat First Nations controversy came to a head on CTV's Question Period Sunday, when the minister of aboriginal affairs contradicted Chief Theresa Spence about whether she agreed to third-party management.
When the minister, John Duncan, said the band's chief had agreed to have third-party manager Jacques Marion supervise finances, co-host Craig Oliver said he had just spoken to Chief Theresa Spence.
"She says that's a lie," Oliver said. "She did agree to everything else you said but did not agree to work with the third-party manager. We have a serious conflict here."
Then Duncan said, "We talked to her within the last hour."
To which, Oliver replied, "We talked to her 10 minutes ago."
The minister concluded: "The reality is the third-party manager is in place."
In a telephone interview with CTV News after the program's conclusion, Spence said: "He's a liar, because I didn't say I agreed. Third party is not the answer here. We declared an emergency crisis, not a crisis on finances."
Duncan admitted the consultant's $1,300-a-day fee would be paid out of government funds earmarked for the troubled reserve, which declared a state of emergency in late October. The third-party manager is expected to be in place until June 30.
He also said the chief had agreed to the ministry's offer Sunday of 22 new modular homes, seven more than previously offered, and had given the green light for renovations of the community's healing centre so that it can be used to house people who have been living in tents and shacks.
"This is a specific crisis," Duncan added. "From the beginning we've been working with the community."
In an earlier segment of Question Period, the provincial director of the Canadian Red Cross said Canadians have shown their great generosity by donating more than $300,000 for the Attawapiskat community.
He said the immediate need was for insulated sleeping bags for the 25 families living in temporary shelter in sub-zero temperatures.
John Saunders said he planned to return to the reserve within days to meet with the chief ahead of the arrival of the last load of Red Cross supplies on Friday.
Looking at the broader picture of native reserves across Canada, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Derek Nepinak said there needs to be fundamental change in the way the federal government interacts with native peoples.
"It's really a legacy of oppression we're living with here," he said, adding that even though the focus of the media has been on fiscal matters, "it's about more than money."
"When we sit down with the prime minister, we'll focus on the notion of transformational change," Nepinak said.
Calvin Helin, the author of Dances with Dependency, said, "We need to reform policy and legislation.
"Property ownership is critical to moving forward," he said from Vancouver. "The Indian Act puts Aboriginal people in forced dependency."