Two of this area’s six First Nations leaders were paid more last year than members of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly, and a third earned more than the province’s Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.
According to documents available through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), Chief Rene Skin of the Skin Tyee First Nation was paid $128,530 in remuneration and honoraria in the 12 months ended March 31, 2015. His counterpart at the Lake Babine Nation, Wilf Adam, received salary and honoraria totalling $110,139 during the same period.
These incomes garnered both men the distinction of earning more than a B.C. Member of the Legislative Assembly. During the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015, each of B.C.’s 85 MLAs was paid a base salary (excluding expenses) of $101,859.
Skin was also paid $58,852 in travel-related expenses last year, bringing his total First Nations related income to $187,382. Adams’ total band-related income was $203,901, as he also posted travel expenses of $93,762.
As of July 2015, the Skin Tyee First Nation had a registered population of 179 members, while the Lake Babine Nation’s registered population totalled 2462.
Adams and Skin weren’t the highest paid First Nations leaders in this area last year. Richard Peters, who served as chief of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation for the 12 months ended March 31, 2015, received remuneration totalling $166,169 – $23,566 more than John Rustad, B.C.’s Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, and only $9,028 less than Premier Christy Clark.
Peters also received $34,527 in travel-related expenses, for a combined band-related income of $200,696.
Several other local First Nations leaders also posted six-figure incomes last year.
Dan George, who served as councillor of the Burns Lake Band for seven months and its chief for five, received band-related remuneration and expense payments totalling $132,185. Chief Ray Morris of the Nee Tahi Buhn Band was paid $91,405 in remuneration and honoraria for the year ended March 31, 2015 and an additional $62,976 in expenses, for a total of $154,381.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada records show that as of July 2015, the Burns Lake Band had 130 registered members, while the Nee Tahi Buhn Band had 147.
Deputy Chief Frank Alec of the Lake Babine Nation earned $68,500 in honoraria and an additional $56,000 in travel expenses, for a combined band-related income of $124,500. Fellow LBN councillors Leonard Lawley and Fred William were paid $112,405 and 111,326 in honoraria and expenses last year, respectively.
Karen Ogen, chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (which AANDC states has 243 registered members) received band-related payments totalling $111,214 – $84,756 in remuneration and $26,458 in expenses.
Hazel Burt and Ted Jack, councillors for the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, had combined remuneration and expenses of $116,769 and $103,227, respectively, although these totals also reflect income they earned while serving the First Nation in other capacities. According to documents filed with AANDC, Burt also acted as Cheslatta’s social development manager and education manager during the last fiscal year, while Councillor Jack was the First Nation’s land and natural resources manager, capital/infrastructure manager, operations and maintenance manager, and field supervisor.
A dozen other First Nations elected officials each received payments totalling more than $50,000 from their respective bands during the 2014-15 fiscal year. During that period, this area’s six First Nations – which according to AANDC have combined registered populations of 3517 – paid $2,630,073 in total remuneration and expenses to 31 elected officials.
The federal First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which came into effect in 2013, requires that First Nations publish several financial related documents annually, including their audited consolidated financial statements and a schedule of remuneration and expenses paid to elected officials. These documents must remain accessible to the public for a period of 10 years.
Like other federal, provincial, and municipal governments, First Nation governments are responsible for setting the remuneration paid to elected officials. On its website, AANDC indicates that it encourages First Nations to practice sound fiscal management by setting remuneration at reasonable levels commensurate with the duties and responsibilities of the position, while taking into consideration the “overall needs of the community.”
According to AANDC, First Nations generally consider a number of factors when setting the remuneration of their elected officials, including the latter’s responsibilities and duties, the size of the community, the complexity of the community’s business operations, and the First Nation’s own-source revenue.