According to multiple interviews conducted by The Nectarine with members of the Bigstone Cree Nation community, the councillors of Bigstone Cree Nation have granted themselves a $60,000 bonus each.
The bonus allegedly came from the accounts of Mistassini Aboriginal Contractors Ltd.; a Bigstone Nation-owned company incorporated in Edmonton, Alberta in 2015.
Editor’s Note: Mistassini Aboriginal Contractors LTD. cannot be found on the Bigstone website under its business section, but can be found under the jobs section.
According to members of the Big Stone Empowerment society, a group which encourages transparent dialogue amongst Bigstone Cree Nation members, the bonuses were given through a 5-2 council vote (there are 11 councillors), which allegedly had to be leaked to them.
According to screenshots of messages shared with The Nectarine by the Empowerment Society, multiple council members did not come forward willingly until Gloria Anderson, the councillor for Calling Lake, publicly admitted to being given a cheque at a band meeting on Wednesday. Gloria has also provided a photo of her $60,000 which she has donated to a charity in Calling Lake, to a band member who has since shared it with the community.
Since Gloria’s announcement, two more members have come forward and renounced their cheques, posting proof that they are returning the money.
While a fourth councillor, Josie C. Auger has posted that she will return the money but has not posted any proof.
In total this still leaves up to eight councillors who have received a combined total of $480,000 in bonuses, at a time when band members like Travis Gladue say “elders are in great need, and infrastructure spending is severely lacking.”
Travis noted that “This was not a forthcoming process, it felt not ethically or morally right. This was public funds and felt sneaky. If we didn’t have a leak we wouldn’t have known about it. It makes me wonder how much more of this has gone on. ”
In a separate interview, Ralph Cardinal another band member and retired RCMP sergeant with over 30 years of service noted:
“First Nations communities are always living in poverty, and I see it. Coming from an RCMP background, I’ve policed my community through my 30 years of work experience. There are so many areas where this money could have been better spent.”
Mr. Cardinal also commented “It’s not easy to be in leadership. Its difficult First Nations or not, but ethics is usually a priority. Honesty and integrity is number one for me. Transparency goes with all that. We want to rebuild, we want to transform the culture and the way we govern. We need an auditor general or some kind of oversight.”
Another band member, Milburn Auger commented that “Our people are hurting, and it is largely due to the decisions of our leadership. I only managed to find the truth because of the empowerment society and social media.”
The point that Travis, Ralph, and Milburn and many others from the band made was that their nation was in need, that they required more transparency from their council, and that for the most part, they wanted to see Bigstone thrive as a community where members feel involved.
Whether the council chooses to respond to this sentiment we will have have to wait and see.
As of this moment, nine of the eleven councillors of Bigstone have not returned our requests for comment since the time of publication.
Bert Alook and Ivan Alook did pick up our call but declined to comment.