Treaty 3 area chief John Thunder of the Buffalo Point First Nation is defending himself after his yearly salary drew national criticism when it was revealed publicly on Tuesday, July 29, under the federal government’s new First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
Thunder says he is angry with the media, which he says has badly misrepresented him and the reasons why he earns a six-figure salary, and he is furious with the federal government for compelling the public disclosure of such information in the first place.
“The department of Indian Affairs has no right to this information. (The money being spent on my salary) isn’t their money, it’s Buffalo Point’s money which we earned through our own development and the use of our land,” said Thunder.
Thunder says 75 per cent of the money Buffalo Point gets every year is earned through its business ventures such as cottage real estate, a marina, campground, golf course, hotel, a resort, restaurant, cabin rentals, conference centre, construction and more.
By being forced to give out private business information that non-native businesses don’t have to divulge, Thunder argues the government is sabotaging the First Nation’s ability to be self-supportive.
“I have plenty of back-stabbing (business) competition out there that would love to see my businesses suffer and they are now privy to my business information, which I would never be able to get from them … there’s no way a white man’s business would divulge this kind of information on the Internet to anybody,” said the chief.
“This is a serious detriment to First Nations economically speaking going forward. And it can’t be allowed to continue.”
The chief points out that most media reports have combined his salary with his reimbursement for travel expenses to produce a total of $129,398, when his actual yearly salary is $105,000 per year.
This salary, he says, is not paid to him as the hereditary chief of the Buffalo Point First Nation, but as the chief executive officer of the Buffalo Point Development Corporation. Considering how much economic prosperity the corporation has brought to the First Nation through its various business initiatives, he argues his salary is not only fair, but well below the average salary of Canadian CEOs running similar-sized companies.
“I am the most affordable CEO in Canada. Buffalo Point has the best deal going,” said Thunder.
If he were no longer CEO of the development corporation, said Thunder, he would not be drawing a salary as hereditary chief.
As a reserve resident, Thunder does not have to pay federal or provincial income taxes, but he says that doesn’t mean he lives a tax-free life. He estimates that he pays about $15,000 a year in property, income and sales taxes paid to the Buffalo Point band.
Thunder says he is deeply frustrated that despite being an otherwise successful community, Buffalo Point is subject to the suspicions and restrictions imposed on them by the federal government and the Indian Act.
Were it possible, Thunder says he would gladly opt out of the Indian Act and return all the money given to the band in its short 35-year history just so the band and its people could continue to pursue their goals without interference of the government.
“The Indian Act and that department are of no value whatsoever to Buffalo Point. The sooner we get rid of those two things, the better off Buffalo Point would be,” he said.
“I am not interested in the Indian Act, I don’t want anything to do with it. If all the taxes and natural resources revenues that were rightfully Buffalo Point’s were left in the hands of the First Nation, we would not need one penny of their money. I’d give all their money back tomorrow if they stop stealing my revenues.” Source : www.kenoradailyminerandnews.com