The RCMP has confirmed to APTN National News that it has launched an investigation on Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan after two elders came forward providing a stack of financial documents.
The investigation is in the early stages said Sgt. Rob Laurent of the RCMP’s Yorkton detachment.
“We do have an investigation that is ongoing,” said Laurent.
Laurent confirmed the investigation is based on complaints made from elders and the documents they provided.
Elders Frances Musqua, 70, and Seraphine Straightnose, 71, met with Laurent Aug. 21 and provided him with over 150 pages of financial documents, including receipts and records of large cheques connected the band’s co-manager Edwin Chalupiak and his Regina-based companies Dynamic Management Solutions and Chalupiak and Associates, as well as the band’s director of operations Chris Lafontaine.
Chalupiak and Lafontaine have refused to answer questions from APTN citing confidentiality but Chalupiak said the council has launched its own investigation into how “confidential” documents were leaked from the band office.
He claimed to have spoken to Laurent and copied the officer on an email to APTN.
“He also indicated to me that neither (Dynamic) Management Solutions Inc. or Chalupiak & Associates is under investigation,” wrote Chalupiak.
“Any reference to the investigation involving these entities will be misleading, and these entities will suffer damages due to the reporting of incorrect information.”
APTN tried to confirm Chalupiak’s comments with Laurent but he didn’t respond to a message left at his office or an email. He also didn’t respond to Chalupiak’s email.
Straightnose said she called Laurent and told APTN the officer confirmed he spoke to Chalupiak but it’s against RCMP policy to confirm who is, or not, a subject of an investigation.
Straightnose first went to the RCMP after she learned the band’s director of operations had cut two large cheques while the band membership was celebrating Treaty Days on May 17-18, where each member gets a symbolic $5.
The one cheque was for $124,944 and the other $50,000 according to documents provided to APTN.
There are records of other large cheques and receipts for band membership assistance and housing repairs included in the RCMP documents.
“Somebody said they were making cheques on Treaty Day. That’s what really upset me,” Straightnose told APTN, as to why she went to the RCMP.
Laurent said because of the large volume of documents the RCMP intends to ask Indigenous Affairs to launch a financial review of the band to assist the investigation.
“That is going to be one of the avenues of the investigation we’re going at. It’s just I haven’t gotten to that part, yet,” he said.
Keeseekoose First Nation is nearly 300 kilometres northeast of Regina and about 700 people live on reserve according to Indigenous Affairs.
The complaint to the RCMP was the boiling point of frustration brewing in the months prior over Chalupiak and Lafontaine.
Chalupiak was brought on to be the band’s co-manager, or recipient-appointed advisor, on Nov. 1, 2015 as INAC found the band to be in default of its finances.
A contract was signed with Chalupiak’s company Dynamic Management Solutions which gave the company primary authority over finances.
The deal provided Dynamic $10,000 a month, plus expenses.
In a separate contract, Lafontaine is paid approximately $15,000 a month.
Soon after the band council signed the contract with Dynamic, seven members of council told APTN their wages were scaled back and in the summer of 2016, the council of 12 was effectively laid off by Chalupiak for several months, while Chief Lyndon Musqua continued to be paid.
By the fall of 2016, Musqua and several councillors wanted Chalupiak and Lafontaine gone according to recordings of meetings provided to APTN, along with interviews with several of the councillors and Musqua.
But on April 24, 2017, seven councillors agreed to extend Chalupiak and Lafontaine’s contracts in band council resolutions (BCRs) signed by the councillors in Chalupiak’s Regina office.
Musqua was not present at the meeting and claims the meeting was illegal because the band’s custom election act stipulates all meetings have to be called by the chief.
Musqua was able to have those BCRs rescinded in May, which was when Lafontaine had the large cheques made out at the band office during Treaty Days.
The description on the cheques, according to documents from the band office, said the one for $50,000 was for breaching Lafontaine’s contract, and the other paid out Lafontaine’s salary for the year in advance.
Musqua said he tried to determine if the cheques were cashed and called the Bank of Montreal to find out.
However, staff at the bank said they weren’t authorized to give the chief any information and could only speak to Dynamic.
This all played out during a council meeting on June 20 with Chalupiak and Lafontaine in attendance. The meeting was audio recorded and provided to APTN.
“I still got no clarity if the cheques going around were cashed or not,” says Musqua during the meeting. “I asked if they were cashed. Show us.”
Later in the meeting, Chalupiak says the cheques were voided, while Lafontaine says the cheques were made as a “lesson” of the consequences the band would face if they breached his contract.
“The simple fact they were made – the intent was there – is disturbing enough,” Musqua says. “That’s what upsets me.”
The next month, Chalupiak’s contract was renewed for another year by nine councillors.
Then Straightnose went to the RCMP with the support of Musqua.
“I am not going to back down. I’m not,” she said.