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James Smith Band attempted to activate a Local Government Control Policy two and half years ago, which would have given governing control of the reserve to its band members.
Since then, they have continually been plagued with endless problems and frustrations in its development. These frustrations are outlined in a document prepared by the James Smith band members, which was recently presented to the Department of Indian Affairs.
Historically, the plight of the James Smith Band began over two and a half years ago when the Chief and Council analyzed, programmed and budgeted for the needs of band members. A draft was then prepared and presented to the department outlining the direction and intentions of all the programs on the reserve. Program funds were then negotiated, authorized and approved by the department.
However, band members recently came to the grim realization that, "When any Local Control Policy is implemented, it is strictly a 'tokenist' approach" by the department.
Since the activation of the policy, the band has dealt with no less than 29 people in education alone and 19 in community affairs.
Authorized and approved program monies seldom, if ever, arrive and members constantly have to justify programs, which have been approved and authorized through the appropriated channels of the department.
It became apparent to band members that co-operation from Indian Affairs personnel has been the result of personal and committed-endeavors rather than department policy. Band members have also become aware of the fact that department personnel who sympathize and lend their expertise are considered outcasts of the department and are usually ostracized and ridiculed for performing their duties.
Indian Affairs District Officers often refer to James Smith as 'the James Smith Problem'. This document was prepared as a result of encountering many roadblocks and frustrations by band members caused in implementing the Local Government Control Policy on the reserve.
The budget for administration was approved and allotted at 46,000. The concept of Local control is supposedly one, where the department and the Chief and Council reach a mutually agreed upon decision. However, the Department decreased and committed $35,000 and even decreased it to 18,000. The only rationale given by the District Office is that the appropriate ($45,000) 'Approved' Band Council Resolution was lost. This, as pointed out in the document, "exhibits lack of managerial control not of the band level as intended, but at the administrative level of the department." The Band Administrator cannot be expected to administer the accounts if he does not have the approved funds to work with in the first place.
The former Regional Director stated that, "There is conclusive evidence the department is pursuing the departmental policy of increased local government control because of more funds being spent." This, as points out is that once a minimal portion of the funds, rightfully or legally due is allotted by the department; it then assumes no responsibility for the supportive services of those funds.
Bands in the Saskatoon District who have assumed the Local Control Policy are becoming the victims of the department's incompetence. Band Financial Management Performance Ratings are being carried out by the department without any prior consultation with the band involved. The department continually fails to provide the expertise of financial advisors for both counsel and training and to provide the necessary training funds for better equipping band staff in establishing and maintaining the various procedures necessary for sound managerial and administrative control.
Yet the department hastily publicized the financial affairs of bands, as they did in the case of the James Smith Band, without any prior consultation. Had the department publicized the real situation, the total picture, reference to Local Government on the James Smith Reserve, would have been totally different. The department, in order to cover up its own incompetence, never mentioned that:
The department obviously had only one interest, "That of totally discrediting and undermining the administrative capabilities of the James Smith Chief and Council in the eyes of other bands throughout the region. The James Smith Chief and Council pointed out that of the 13 bands in the Saskatoon District, 11 are rated poor, one as fair and one as good. In the Band financial Management Performance Ratings, it is necessary to point out that the administration of four of these bands is totally the department's responsibility. The department is highly critical of the James Smith Band record, yet the department cannot meet their own set standards for at least two bands.
The department charged that the monies of the James Smith Band "were not spent for purposes intended". It was pointed out that the monies, in some cases, were only spent in other areas at the department's request. The Regional Director of Saskatchewan stated, "A serious situation like this can only be corrected by strong management action." This strong management action could not materialize itself as the department did not and have not supplied the support services nor the necessary funding as is required in order for any band to exercise this strong management action.
The Chief and Council point out that; "Programs are continually being interfered with regarding content, structure and approach". Even after several requests, the department has yet to provide any educational philosophy or program forecasts it supposedly supports.
The departmental welfare placements charged to the band programs were done without consultation with the Chief and band councj1 of James Smith. The department refuses to accept the legally elected school committee as the sole authority of all educational matters on the reserve by communicating and corresponding with band employees rather than the legally elected Chief and Council or other elected band committees.
Band council resolutions are continually having to be renegotiated and represented to the department.
The District Office refuses to inform band management of program changes and treat all inquiries concerning program direction by band management with a negative and obstructive attitude. Yet the same District Office is quick to accuse and reprimand the band the moment there is a managerial problem.
The Government of Canada fully expected that more training money and staff would be required by bands exercising their right to Local Government Control. Yet the department refuses to carry out the necessary procedures as outlined by the government.
The Saskatoon District Office, of late, has developed a procedure to insure that band funds are never released on time for pre-arranged commitments.
A special regular trip or "money run" it has to be called, has to be made by James Smith band staff in order to secure approved funds on time.
Former departmental staff who have transferred to band staff have had their earnings retained for up to a year by incompetent departmental staff.
Actions of the former Acting Regional Director of the Saskatchewan Region, Jim Wright, has raised serious concerns with the Chief and Council of James Smith.
Not only did the department's commit a breach of promise, (appointment of Mr. Wright), but it was learned at a District Chiefs meeting held at the District Office of the department that the former Regional Director, Mr. Wright, had imposed a "personal vendetta" upon all programs and program funding at lames Smith that are administered by band staff.
Several contracts between the lames Smith Band and the department have been mutually agreed upon. Yet once signed by the Chief and Council, the department then tries to change their responsibilities as outlined and refuse to pay amounts agreed. This malpractice is especially evident in agreements regarding sewer and water installation, site preparation, snow removal and garbage removal.
In places of professional financial assistance to the James Smith Band, the department has provided the band with continued harassment and confusion. These departmental lions can be considered a clear testimonial that the department's intentions are apparently directed toward continued implementation the 1947 'Plan to Eliminate Canada's Indian Problem' and the '1969 White Paper'.
It is the belief that if department is sincere in attempts to initiate and maintain the Policy of Local Government Control, then the department must initiate immediate positive action of a bi-lateral nature with Band Chiefs and Councils to mutually agree and honor all positive directions for all developments.