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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Breathtakingly Audacious Corruption

"Mr. Martin has hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on his campaign and to woo the very small Shuswap electorate. It's unlikely any of his opponents have those kind of resources. Hopefully, voters get access to the full information about how their council has been run and change things."
"Corruption in our political system -- whether on or off reserve -- can never be tolerated or overlooked, as integrity is foundational to democracy."
"[Shuswap members] deserve to know exactly what has gone on with their band leadership and millions of their dollars."
Jordan Bateman, spokesman, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Bethany Lindsay/Postmedia/File
Bethany Lindsay/Postmedia/File   The Shuswap First Nation has an on-reserve population of about 100 people, and is located on the outskirts of Invermere near the B.C.-Alberta border
When the previous Conservative-led government in Canada enacted the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, to ensure that band members on and off reserve were kept informed of what their band councils were engaged in, and how they used the funding available to them through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, it was revealed by investigative reporters that the Shuswap First Nation, a tiny British Columbia band, had been manipulated to transfer $4.2 million of band funding over a period of 3-1/2 years to a single family.

This is a one-hundred member band, whose members live on their reserve located on the outskirts of Invermere close to the British Columbia-Alberta border. A forensic audit carried out by Ernst & Young authorized and funded by the federal government after revelations in the news media pointed out this gross mismanagement of band funds, was verified when the auditors produced a thirteen-page report made available to band members and handed over as well to the RCMP for investigation.

Incumbent Shuswap First Nation Chief Barbara Cote helped wrest control of the band from the family of former chief Paul Sam.
Postmedia/File   Incumbent Shuswap First Nation Chief Barbara Cote helped wrest control of the band from the family of former chief Paul Sam.

Current Chief Barbara Cote, along with the band's two councillors advised band members through a written statement that "It [the matter of the abuse of band funds] is under RCMP investigation." A "general and widespread lack of supporting documentation" was highlighted in the Ernst & Young report, noted in their completed audit. Which made note of a lack of proof that expenditures existed related to transactions undertaken by the band, which had a disconcerting habit of advancing the financial affairs of the Sam and Martin family.

In his 80s and confined to a wheelchair, the band chief was paid, tax-free, $741,262 to administer the band affairs, representing one hundred individuals of the band; that would be the equivalent of $1.3 million had taxes have had to be paid on that salary. Paul Sam's wife Alice Sam, in her capacity as the band's bookkeeper received $690,481 as her salary, equivalent to $1.2 million. While their son, Dean Martin was paid slightly below $1.4 million between April 2011 and November 2014.

Alice Sam (left) and then-Shuswap First Nation Chief Paul Sam in 2014. Dan Walton / Columbia Valley Pioneer files
And it is former Chief Sam's son Dean Martin who is now casting himself as an incoming chief should the band choose to vote him into office, and usher out the three incumbents, Chief Barbara Cote and councillors Tim Eugene and Rosalita Pascal who have represented the interests of the band ever since the Sam family was locked out and ousted when it was revealed through the media how they had manipulated band funds to service their personal craving for wealth.This, despite the police probe into the illegality of the transactions the Sam family had engaged in to enrich themselves, preying on the band's trust.

Moreover, two private companies: Shuswap Woodlands Restoration and KDC Sand & Gravel benefited by an additional $1.36 million in undocumented funds from the band's financial reserves. Two of Dean Martin's sons own each of these companies. As well, an additional $66,481 was used during that three-year period "on flights to destinations such as Las Vegas, Chicago and Varadero, Cuba for travel of an apparent personal nature", concluded the Ernst & Young audit.
Dean Martin, candidate for election in the Shuswap First Nation, and son of former chief Paul Sam and former councillor Alice Sam.
Dean Martin, candidate for election in the Shuswap First Nation, and son of former chief Paul Sam and former councillor Alice Sam. Greg Amos / Columbia Valley Pioneer Files

Yet, there's more that the audit discovered which they revealed in their report. Two amounts of $15,000 had been "diverted" for the purpose of clearing the credit card debts of Dean and his son Richard Martin, with another $20,000 going to pay down Dean Martin's former wife Pam's line of credit. Another $28,000 was used to pay for travel and accommodation for a softball team. These revelations are a shocking example of what some First Nations reserves are labouring under, under the guidance and direction of conscienceless leaders.

According to its 2015-16 financial statements, there is a $211,333 loan listed as an outstanding liability, taken out by KDC Sand & Gravel. Another drag on band expenses is the litigation launched against some ex-employees, including Dean Martin. In view of this egregious example of criminal malfeasance on the part of the elected chief and councillors of the Shuswap First Nation until they were removed once news of their skullduggery became public knowledge, it seems peculiar indeed that the current Trudeau government is prepared to revoke the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, citing their view that insufficient consultation with First Nations took place before the act was brought into law.

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