Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Debt blamed for paycheque dispute

Reserve fires back after teachers' union demands feds step in

  • Print
Sandy Bay First Nation Chief Russell Beaulieu admits the band has missed teachers' pay periods in the past.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Sandy Bay First Nation Chief Russell Beaulieu admits the band has missed teachers' pay periods in the past. Photo Store

Sandy Bay First Nation, which has been accused of not paying its teachers, is rejecting help from Ottawa to manage its books.

Sandy Bay Chief Russell Beaulieu held a news conference in Winnipeg on Wednesday to lash out at the Manitoba Teachers' Society (MTS) for its demand Tuesday that Ottawa place the reserve north of Brandon under third-party management.

"I'm here to point fingers," said Beaulieu, who said his council inherited a $19-million debt from the previous administration and has already paid off $6 million.

"We admit there have been sporadic paydays when we've missed one," Beaulieu said, but insisted teachers' earnings are up to date and they'll get their pay due this Friday.

Beaulieu did acknowledge, however, the band has not paid its contribution to teachers' benefits, nor has it forwarded the teachers' contributions to the Canada Revenue Agency for 2013 and 2014, though it has caught up on 2012 non-payments his council inherited.

"These are debts we have inherited," he said.

'I'm here to point fingers'

-- Sandy Bay Chief Russell Beaulieu, who says his council inherited a $19-million debt from the reserve's previous administration

He said the band sold 10 houses in Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg to meet its last three payrolls. The houses were originally intended 25 years ago for band members living off-reserve, but have been rented out for many years, the chief said.

Beaulieu said Sandy Bay has laid off 23 employees to help pay down the debt and councillors have trimmed their salaries 15 per cent.

He said Sandy Bay's debt is currently $13 million.

Beaulieu refused to say what the band's annual budget is, and what percentage of revenue the debt represents.

He said after Sandy Bay covers payroll and its social services costs, there isn't much left.

Beaulieu could not say how the band had run up $19 million in debt, except for several millions of dollars awarded for unjust dismissals to employees let go by the previous administration.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt issued a statement Wednesday but didn't mention third-party management.

Valcourt said teachers would be paid, but did not say if they would be paid on time and said nothing about teachers' benefits. Ottawa assured students they would receive their education -- which was never in doubt, since the Manitoba Teachers' Society has said teachers would never withdraw their services during the school year.

The Manitoba Teachers' Society said the 55 teachers on the reserve are owed at least $737,000. It also alleges conditions at the school are deplorable, with broken fire alarms and bathrooms without toilet paper.

Sandy Bay education director George Beaulieu slammed MTS for "having painted a bad picture of Sandy Bay. It's a very excellent school" that does not have the deterioration and maintenance problems the union claims, he said.

"We're on track for a (record) 50 graduates this year," said George Beaulieu, who denied MTS claims the reserve's teachers have a morale problem.

The education director said Ottawa's funding failed to cover two school buses the band operates, and funding this year was for 100 students fewer than the 1,100 the band says are enrolled.

Russell Beaulieu said third-party management would force widespread layoffs in the community at a time when the band is close to getting a repayment and financial plan finalized, with the help of new professional advisers.

The band's lawyer, Norman Boudreau, said third-party management would be disastrous, leading to significant job losses to cut costs: "Third-party management for First Nations is a kiss of death.

"What about all the other employees? The economy will crash," Boudreau said. "MTS is infringing on (the band council's) constitutional right to self-governance."

MTS president Paul Olson stood firm Wednesday -- it's about education funding going to education, not self-governance, he said. "We don't have any other option. They are the current government -- they have the responsibility to deal with it," he said.

 

-- with files from The Canadian Press

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2014 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Family of Matias De Antonio speaks outside Law Courts

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings enjoy Fridays warm weather to soak up some sun and gobble some grass on Heckla Ave in Winnipeg Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 DAY goose challenge - May 18, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google