Mark Arcand is the chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council.
A prominent member of the Saskatchewan Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is unhappy with the organization and wants to see changes in how money is shared with communities.
Chief Mark Arcand, who speaks for the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC), revealed the rift Monday.
“There’s only a certain amount of money that goes around in all areas for First Nations people, “ he said, “so if an extra level of bureaucracy is taking that money to do some kind of work that they’re doing then it’s not having a direct impact to the people that need it.”
Arcand said STC, which represents seven bands in Saskatoon, sent a letter to the ministers of Canada’s two federal Indigenous portfolios – Carolyn Bennett and Jane Philpott – in March 2018.
He said the letter was copied to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde and then-FSIN chief Bobby Cameron, who is running for another term in the FSIN election campaign that concludes Oct. 25.
He said STC interprets Trudeau’s “nation-to-nation relationship” position as direct contact between them and him.
“When it comes to federal funding, there should be nobody negotiating for our first nation communities or our tribal council other than our communities or our tribal council because that’s a nation-to-nation relationship,” he said from Saskatoon.
Continuing to include FSIN in that relationship is unnecessary, he added.
“When you get that third level of bureaucracy, which is FSIN, it doesn’t reach our people,” Arcand said.
STC represents 13,000 First Nations people through its member bands and delivers services to an additional 25,000 urban First Nations people in Saskatoon.
Arcand would not release the letter until possibly later in the week; it was unclear why the contents was being discussed now.
FSIN, which represents all 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, “has been in disarray” in these last 30 days, Arcand noted.
“So if things aren’t going right – whether its governance or accountability or transparency -whatever the issue is – restructuring – it affects all of us. We all get questioned as to what’s going on there,” he said.
“We’re not in charge of that organization. Somebody else is on our behalf, but we always get painted with the same brush.”
STC is stating its position while FSIN is mired in a fight with first vice-chief Kim Jonathan.
Jonathan, who is not running for re-election, has said she was locked out of the FSIN office in Saskatoon at the beginning of the election campaign and frozen out of her email account.
She has also said the Saskatoon Police Service is investigating a complaint from November 2017, something APTN has confirmed involves an individual or individuals at FSIN.
FSIN has criticized Jonathan for publicly discussing internal business. It has said it is investigating her behaviour for “breach of conduct and financial policies.”
On Monday, Jonathan told APTN she welcomed a review.
“Yes, please do an internal investigation,” she said. “To be fair, I would expect that an internal review of all executive members of FSIN would receive the same priority.
“Include all of the information where even treasury board chiefs and tribal council have also requested financial information and are still waiting. Further, I would hope that the same priority and excitement for an investigation be provided to the Saskatoon city police for the current investigation,” she added.
Jonathan said some former female employees have filed statements of claim against FSIN for a variety of reasons, including wrongful dismissal and breach of contract.
Something APTN has confirmed.
“They have …entered in to a situation of liability for FSIN,” she said.
But Arcand said STC chiefs would still vote in the Oct. 25 FSIN election for chief and two vice-chief candidates.
FSIN spokeswoman Larissa Burnouf declined to comment on the STC’s comments.
“We have been instructed by legal counsel to not comment to media on requests and stories that are election-driven or politically-motivated,” Burnouf said in an email.