LETTERS: Don’t blame First Nations

Editor:

Re: Band members disheartened by pay, Aug. 19.

Editor:

Re: Band members disheartened by pay, Aug. 19.

There has been much strong criticism of the salaries paid last year to Chief Willard Cook and councillor Joanne Charles of the Semiahmoo First Nation.

There has not been enough information published for such strong criticism to be valid.

The band reportedly had a surplus of about $3.3 million last year, due to a one-time payment by the provincial government of about the same amount. The salaries paid to Cook and Charles last year were probably based on that surplus.

Both have been in their band positions for probably more than 20 years. What were they getting paid during all those years?

It’s been reported that most chiefs and councillors in B.C. are paid in the range of $20,000 to $40,000. I suspect that for most of their time in band government, Cook and Charles were probably paid in the low end of that range.

Is Canada not committed to financing infrastructure and housing on reserves? The Peace Arch News reports that federal payments last year to the Semiahmoo First Nation were only $171,673. That is hardly enough to run a small office. No wonder that the housing and infrastructure are in bad shape.

Under its current leadership, the band has now accumulated a surplus of about $4.3 million. That is not enough to bring infrastructure and housing up to snuff, let alone solve all of the band’s problems. But it is a start.

We could help by pressuring our own government to live up to our commitments, rather than by digging for excuses to blame band members for the problems.

Bill McConnell, Surrey