The Department of Indigenous Services Canada has removed their Recipient Appointed Advisor from the Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation.
The advisor was appointed in August of 2014. According to a letter published on the Cree nation's website, the move came about when Indigenous Services Canada assessed the nation as a high financial risk, and expressed concern over their ability to deliver programs. The most recent general assessment rated the community as a much lower financial risk. According to the letter, the adviser was removed because the Cree Nation has made “much-needed improvements, both financially and with capacity development."
“The council of the Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation welcomes the decision to remove our Nation from default management status,” Chief Roy Petit said.
He added congratulations to band members, and thanked staff for the work they contributed to adhere to the community’s Financial Management Act, which was introduced last year.
“This adherence to our own laws continues to move us forward in a good way, and is something our community can be proud of,” Petit said.
Petit told paNOW co-management is sometimes seen a negative label among bands. He said no particular individual was at fault for Beardy's falling under co-management; rather, he said it was due to the funding model Indigenous communities operate under.
“We have to catch up sometimes, and sometimes there’s emergencies that we have to follow up on; it’s kind of hard to manage what we have,” Petit said, noting the Cree Nation is responsible for education and social development program costs, something most municipalities in Canada don’t have to worry about.
“We’re way, way ahead of the game, I think, in a lot of ways. We don’t receive a lot of money; it sounds like we receive a lot of money, but we’re actually running a little country here,” Petit said.
The band's debt sat at almost $9 million five years ago, Petit said, and today is only about $1.2 million. The chief said much of the remaining debt is tied up in mortgages, which he classifies as “good debt.”
The Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation gets a yearly budget, the chief said, which is distributed to the community on a month-to-month basis. Petit said having the co-management title taken away, and having a good general assessment score, could open the doors to having funds distributed quarterly, or even yearly. Moving forward, he said the band is working to ensure their staff and administration are aware of the Financial Management Act and the guidelines it lays out for them. The band is also in the process of developing forms to aide staff in filling out expense paperwork, he said, in order to ensure all of the proper paperwork is in place.
Editor's note: This story was updated on March 11 to clarify the Band's move was from co-management not third-party.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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