B.C. First Nation members launching lawsuit against 'million dollar' chief
Published Sunday, October 5, 2014 10:26AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 6, 2014 3:26PM EDT
Some members of a tiny B.C. First Nation are launching a class-action lawsuit against a chief who pocketed close to a million dollars last year after facilitating a lucrative land deal.
Kwikwetlem First Nation Chief Ron Giesbrecht made national headlines last month after revelations he was the highest paid chief in Canada last year, leading to the nickname of "the million dollar chief."
The Harper government and a taxpayers group were outraged after annual financial statements, as well as salary and compensation levels for chiefs and councillors, were publicly disclosed.
The public online posting by the federal government came as a result of new disclosure rules under the government’s new First Nation Financial Transparency Act.
Most of the money Giesbrecht received came from a land deal the chief facilitated with the province of B.C. on behalf of the 82-member First Nation.
Of his $914,219 in earnings last year, $800,000 came from a 10 per cent bonus he received in his role as economic development officer. The bonus stemmed from an $8-million land deal the 82-member band struck with the B.C. government.
The members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation who are launching the class-action lawsuit against Giesbrecht say the deal shouldn’t have been facilitated.
Member Ron Jackman suggsted the bonus was unfair.
“We are seeking reconciliation to make things right for our people. As for Chief Ron Giesbrecht, we have asked the courts to decide whether he has breached his fiduciary duties,” Jackman said, reading from a statement Saturday.
Another band member said Giesbrecht never consulted them about the extra compensation.
“Eighty per cent of the members did not know this money came in. We’re mad. We’re concerned,” said Glen Joe.
When news of the $800,000 bonus first broke, Giesbrecht issued a statement saying he is "one of the lowest paid chiefs in the country." He said he is paid a $4,800 annual salary as chief and another $80,000 per year as economic development officer.
In the wake of the controversy, Giesbrecht said while four of his band members asked him to resign, he believes he has the majority support of his First Nation.
He noted that the economic activity has led to improved housing, support for youth and elders and health programs for the First Nation.
The contract clause that allowed Giesbrecht to take a 10 per cent bonus from the economic development projects he initiated as the manager was removed on April 1, 2014, according to his statement.
With files from CTV Vancouver and The Canadian Press