Transparency Act reveals Shuswap council earnings

An audit has revealed that the chief and one councillor at the Shuswap Indian Band are among the highest paid in the province.

  • Nov. 3, 2014 2:00 p.m.

Dan Walton/Columbia Valley Pioneer

An audit has revealed that the chief and one councillor at the Shuswap Indian Band are among the highest paid in the province.

The First Nations Financial Transparency Act was enacted earlier in 2014, which now requires First Nations to post online their audited financial statements for the last fiscal year. Among the new figures listed are the salaries of chief and council.

The numbers submitted by the Shuswap Band show Chief Paul Sam to have earned $202,413 over the period of 12 months, followed closely by councillor Alice Sam who earned $202,000. The third council member, Barbara Cote, was paid $57,700 over the same timeframe. The publication of these documents was initially delayed as the band changed auditors twice before submitting the report.

In contrast to the numbers submitted by the Akisqnuk First Nation, Chief Lorne Shovar and each member of his council were paid $18,200 (with exception to one council position that was fragmented by two band members, but funds were distributed evenly).

“We don’t want to be earmarked as a band that doesn’t meet its requirements to its people, because that’s the farthest thing from the truth,” said Chief Paul Sam’s son, Dean Martin, the chief executive officer of the Kinbasket Development Corporation (KDC). The KDC is a corporate extension of the Shuswap Band, to which every member is a stakeholder.

He said his father’s income has accumulated as a result of holding the position of chief for 34 years and for overseeing substantial economic prosperity.

“We’re one of the highest paid bands there’s no doubt, but it’s one of the richest bands,” he said.

The Shuswap territory encompasses roughly 2,500 acres. Amid economic distress in 1996, the band designated 500 of those acres for development.

“Through that designation, it opened up an opportunity for us to leverage that land for money to develop on,” Mr. Martin said. “This band did that the conventional way. We built our economy through hard work right here.”

Those developments have brought the band’s total asset value to $75,000,000, he said. Also worth taking into account, said Mr. Martin, are the travel costs and retirement savings of First Nations leaders, which he said accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of their income.

“In my mind, $140,000 or $150,000 (after considering the deduction of retirement and travel expenses) for 34 years of work on what these guys run — $75,000,000 worth of assets — they’re still underpaid,” Mr. Martin said.

But Barbara Cote, the lesser paid council member, finds these numbers deceiving.

“If we are so rich, I want to ask, where is the money?” she said.

The wealth that has accumulated through developments on Shuswap land has not benefitted the majority of the band’s members, she said.

“As a councillor, I have had an elder phone me for water in the winter.”

To help the elder get his water running, Ms. Cote said she went to the KDC to ask for help. “Apparently we had no money.”

But Gordie Martin, Shuswap public relations, refutes that claim, saying that members living on the reserve are not going without essential services. “We have the resources to help these people out and we do.”

Ms. Cote is very relieved by the results of the Transparency Act.

“We now have the numbers,” she said. “Some of our people are living in poverty, and it should never, ever have taken place.”

The Shuswap population does not elect their chief, but rather elects three council members. Once elected, those three councillors decide who takes the reigns of chief, and they also determine the level of compensation.

Asked why her salary was only about one-quarter of Alice Paul’s — the other Shuswap councillor — Ms. Cote said, “I am just as surprised as all of Canada that there was such a difference in honoraria. Personally, I would never have taken that much from the people who elected me to work for them. I would rather see that money go towards programs that help our community.”

Gordie Martin argues that the wages are fair.

“[Paul and Alice Sam are compensated] way below somebody working for 34 years at one job; it hasn’t even been kept up with the cost of living,” he said. Regarding Ms. Cote’s relatively low pay, he said “if you have a ball team, and you have a rookie coming in, unless it was Michael Jordan or something, would you pay a zillion dollars? No. You have to prove yourself.”

Ms. Cote said these issues haven’t been discussed at council because no formal meetings are held.

“We haven’t had a band meeting in eight years — only a chief can call a band meeting, and he hasn’t called one,” she said.

Gordie Martin denies this, stating council meetings are held every month.

The lack of leadership has caused the community to become dysfunctional, Ms. Cote said, and that the level of inequality has continually worsened in the past two decades. Along with her colleagues Alice and Paul Sam, Ms. Cote is also running for reelection.

Voting takes place on Saturday, Nov. 7. Also running for Shuswap council are Annanette Eugene, Pauline Eugene, Timothy Eugene, Rosalita Ita, Alice Sam, Paul Sam, Lawrence Thomas, Suzanne Thomas, and Dorothy Warbrick.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka is contesting Kootenay East for the BC Liberals. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Shypitka named opposition critic for Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation

The Kootenay East MLA has held the energy and mines portfolio since 2017

Item no 22, De-Kieviet Kindergarten class - Highlands, Starting Bid: $20
Christmas Village 2020 school auction items

The annual Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are the auction items from local schools

File Photo
Missing hunter found dead in South Country

A hunter was reported as overdue on Nov. 29, and was found deceased on Nov. 30 following an RCMP and SAR operation

(Black Press file photo)
RCMP seeking driver of burnt out car found on HaHa Creek Road

Cranbrook RCMP are looking for the driver of a vehicle that was found on fire Monday

The bids for the 2020 Christmas Village are open as of noon on Thursday, November 26. Please scroll through this album to see auction items available for bidding.
Christmas Village 2020 auction items

The Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are all the details

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Most Read