Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Embezzler stole to feed coke habit

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BRANDON -- In deciding whether to send embezzler Edith Chalmers to jail, Justice John Menzies had a problem.

On one hand, here was an aboriginal woman who'd overcome a horrific childhood to become a model citizen.

On the other, she was a former First Nation welfare administrator who stole tens of thousands of dollars in welfare money to pay her drug dealer to support her cocaine habit.

It's a crime that gives bigots and racists an excuse to argue that aboriginal managers can't handle money, Menzies said.

"A crime of this type just perpetuates that bigotry and that racism. It's a crime against all aboriginal people in this country," Menzies remarked in Brandon Court of Queen's Bench on Thursday as he sentenced Chalmers for fraud and theft.

While welfare administrator for the Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Chalmers siphoned $177,862.71 from band welfare accounts between April 1, 2008 and May 31, 2009.

Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup said Chalmers "drained the welfare account dry."

Chief and council had to get money from private sources and divert it from projects to ensure those on social assistance received the funds they desperately needed.

"Resources that were supposed to go toward groceries, clothing and diapers, instead largely went up Edith Chalmers' nostrils," Lonstrup said.

Menzies decided Chalmers' crime was too severe for her to avoid jail. He sentenced her to one year in jail, followed by 18 months probation.

While Menzies recognized Chalmers will likely never be able to settle the debt, she was ordered to pay back the $177,862 she stole.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2014 A14

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