Band members from Whitefish Lake First Nation #459 are demanding answers from their leadership. A lack of consultation has damaged the relationship between the members and leaders of Whitefish Lake #459, a problem that often creates difficulty in Crown—indigenous relations as well.
Members of Whitefish Lake #459 received a settlement negotiated by band leaders and the Government of Canada on February 2nd, 2017. The agreement accounted for an agricultural benefits claim, arranged under Treaty 8 as ‘Cows and Plows.’ The Nation is located on Treaty 8 land.
Once trapping, hunting and fishing were no longer viable sources of income, band members would receive a “modest and sufficient livelihood” from agricultural dues, although some are questioning whether “sufficient” is a fair description.
The deal was finalized on October 12, 2017. Totalling a one-time sum of $116,858,095, approximately $10,436,000 was to be distributed among the nearly 3,000 band members on November 15, 2017.
At a band meeting on May 17th, then-Chief Jesse Grey said, “we always have to look at the needs… I know I want lots of money too, but I got to sacrifice. I got to sacrifice for the kids. That is my hope that everyone thinks like that.”
After legal and ratification costs, alongside dues owed to creditors, etc., the remaining $102,535,226 was to be placed into the Agricultural Benefits Settlement Trust for the purpose of building a future for band members and their families.
Unfortunately, the leadership did not consult with band members at any point during or immediately following the negotiations with the government. Any meaningful dialogue that took place was behind closed doors.
For many, it was not until mid-May that members found out how much would be granted to each member and other pertinent details. For example, Whitefish Lake First Nation member, Priscella Greyeyes received her settlement documentation on May 14th, 2017.
TPM interviews WLFN member
The Post Millennial interviewed Whitefish Lake Band Member Priscella Greyeyes on this ongoing matter, and it was revealed that a trail of lies and deceit laid at the feet of the questionable settlement.
Each member from the band received a lump sum of only $4000. The rest remained in the band’s trust fund.
For many, this was mostly underwhelming. For some, they have yet to receive a cent from band leadership.
For others, insults were thrown and scare tactics employed by Indian Agent and fellow band member Gary Laboucan, as well as the then-Chief Jesse Grey, both hurling insults at those merely asking for clarity and greater accountability in the consultation process.
“You’ll be broke within three to four months, some of you, not all of you. We can give you $4000. It’ll be the same, no matter how much we give you,” Chief Grey says.
“Many were not okay with the settlement of $4000,” says Priscella, however, Gary went on to say, “Canada wanted it done.”
If band members were to say no, then all of this would go back into renegotiation for an additional ten years.
Simply put, the Trudeau Government did not uphold its agreement with Whitefish Lake #459 in 2017, but, perhaps, something far more nefarious was at play.
According to WLFN Member Priscella Greyeyes, the 200-page settlement document contained an offer from the Government of a $42,000 settlement for each band member.
So, what gives? Why employ scare tactics?
On May 16th, 2017 Whitefish First Nation held a meeting in Edmonton, and according to Priscella, the leadership was saying much.
“This was the package, this what we are doing with the money. We got $4000. It was a done deal,” says Priscella. However, she feels they were not given a fair deal.
In the end, the settlement was voted in favour on June 14th and 15th, despite reservations.
New leadership elected in 2018
In April 2018, Whitefish Lake #459 had their elections with newly elected Chief Albert Thunder winning over the incumbent, campaigning on a platform based firmly on his religious beliefs.
According to Priscella Greyeyes, Chief Thunder was going to look into the matters about the Agriculture Benefits Settlement. He was elected as chief in 2018.
Members in Whitefish were immediately proactive to find out what the new chief approach surrounding the cows and plows settlement.
According to expert advice from a tax specialist and a chartered accountant, the settlement funds were not taxable under the Income Tax Act. As a PCD, any claims made remained valid up until three years after it was issued, nor did wield any effect on Social Assistance nor Old Age Security.
But in reality however, those who were still waiting for their share were cut off in November 2018, and those who received the $4000 were taxed for it. Those who received it also had their social assistance cut until they spent the $4000, which mostly went towards paying utility bills.
“I’m trying to fight for these people,” says Priscella, who remained concerned about Chief Thunder, who comes from a predominantly NDP family.
February 2019 members question Chief Thunder
The Post Millennial obtained a correspondence of emails from Priscella and Chief Thunder. While Priscella brought up concerns, the chief did not provide in-depth responses, using deflection as shown below.
Friday, February 1, 2019
Dear Chief and council, Band Manager, and membership of WFLFN #459
I am a member of WFLFN #459, I am expressing my concern with the cow and Plough money that Canada had provided as a settlement to WFLFN #459 of the amount of $ 116,858,095.00.
We have not yet got a signed Declaration of trust, with that we have not been informed of who the trust is to the Heritage saving account, Off reserve members account, education account and the infrastructure and housing account. As band members we have a right to ask and receive all this information. The band has not started the process of the off-reserve committee, when is that going to start?
I would like also to get a copy of the membership code, as well as what the criteria for housing applications .
I had also have asked for the minutes of the Band membership meeting and the budget meetings. Also, I had asked the membership clerk for a copy of the membership list and was told that I must ask the Chief and council for that information. And still have not got a response.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019, at 4:45 PM,
I’m still waiting for a response.
Today is February 6th, 2019
Friday, February 8th, 2019, at 10:16,
The off reserve planning has started.
The trustee is RBC for all three accounts.
All accounts are locked in for 7 years starting 2018. (No funds from these accounts can be used)
As for membership list. I’m sure you can go into the office and look at the list at anytime. Not sure why you’d need a list? (There were complaints of the list being posted on Facebook during the voting of the cows and ploughs.. so I’m going to say; I’d rather not give this document out, but you can come to the office at anytime, it’s your band office. No information will be withheld; however in saying that, we cannot allow any documents to leave the band office. Just so we avoid lawsuits to you and the band from individuals that don’t want their information to be public..
In saying this; I can ask the members if they want their information as membership to be shared?
I will answer any question personally as well. I can meet you and Alvis at a restaurant to answer your questions and concerns anytime I’m in the city. As I’ve done for others with questions.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019, at 6:14 PM,
I still never got any copies of any membership or budget meeting minutes I have requested as well as the signed declaration of trust.
What kind of plans do you have so far for the off reserve ?
What money was used to distribute the PCD for the cow and plough in November of 2017? Since the money wasn’t given to the band till January of 2108.
Was it a bank loan? If so, what was the interest rate and was it from the same bank RBC that are trust holders?
We spoke to INAC and they said we have rights to see all this information, including the membership list.
While I’m on the membership topic, I would like a copy of the membership code.
Ill be looking forward to hearing from you.
Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 at 19:46,
Like I said before: you can come to the band office, your band office to look at these documents.
And INAC does not run our nation. They provide block funding which is their fiduciary obligation to each and every one of the 634 First Nations in this country.
There was no bank loan. The funds were in place by October I believe.
But yes: come see all the documents that you need to see.
I’ll be calling a membership meeting in the next couple of weeks. It’ll be posted.
As for off reserve committee: the first committee members will be appointed by chief and council for one year. Then after that, the off reserve members can vote for their reps.
(We did this for elders, and it’s seems to be working)
I’m hearing quite a bit of bad mouthing on Facebook.. just a fair warning: I won’t respond to any of your emails if this continues. I’m not putting a gag order; just want the same respect I’m giving you.. I’ve never done anything wrong to you or Alvis, but it seems like I’ve offended you folks. If I have, forgive me.
All I want is to lead the nation to the next level. Not the next level lower. But the next level higher. We have worked hard in the passed 9 months, and it looks very promising for all members. We just have to wait.
Lawsuits should never be the answer.. and it never will be. But respecting, talking and coming up with solutions to make our lives better is always my priority. I hope it’s yours as well.
Demanding paperwork to be sent to you via email won’t happen. Just letting you know. But if you want: come read them in the band office.
In a liberty; there are certain books that can never leave the building. Same with some documents in the band office.
It’s like asking you to provide a bank statement for all the times the band helped you.. you’d say it’s none of anybody’s business.. to which it is.. but the 7 year statute of limitations do apply to all.
You can even ask to see how much each member has on his or her AR. And according to INAC. We can show those as well. Because it was our money being used..
But anyways. I hope to see you soon. Appreciate you folks.
Wednesday, February 13th, 2019, at 4:59 PM,
I don’t see why we cant get a copy the Signed Deceleration of trust . I know for a fact that the members of Tallcree First Nation got theirs mailed to them, along with a portfolio of a break down from their trust holders and Lawyers.
As for bad mouthing , I have never bad mouthed you on Facebook. All i do is state facts that is all and i back it up with proof and nothing personal towards you or the council.
Agriculture Benefits Settlement has been an on going issue under Treaty 8
Whitefish Lake First Nation is not the only band under Treaty 8 having troubling getting information about the Agriculture Benefits Agreement, Renea Higga Brown and fellow Tall Cree First Nation members are currently engaged in lengthy litigation.
It proves that the Trudeau Government is not helping the first members on the matters of being heard and enforcing responsible consultations.
As the government has a duty to consult with First Nations, First Nations ought to have a duty to consult with their members.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.