Attawapiskat math

Breaking down the federal government’s spending on the troubled reserve

by Aaron Wherry

While the government has now assumed control of the reserve, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan told a parliamentary committee yesterday that officials from his department visited Attawapiskat in October, but that it did not receive notice of an emergency until last week.

The Star and Canadian Press report from the community. Paul Martin calls on the government to consider the Kelowna Accord. The Globe and Star editorialize.

In response to questions today about government funding for Attawapiskat, the department of Aboriginal Affairs sent along a spreadsheet covering fiscal years 2006/2007 through 2010/2011. That spreadsheet is available here as an Excel file. The prominent totals break down as follows.

Support for Band Council and Administration $6,291,235

Registration and Membership $110,800

Education
Elementary and Secondary Education $25,589,065
Post Secondary Education $5,524,500
Special Education $2,323,647
Youth Employment Strategy $28,500
Total $33,465,712 

Social Development
Income Assistance $4,856,133
Assisted Living $20,000
Family Capacity Initiatives $233,500
National Child Benefit Reinvestment $3,371,698
Total 8,481,331 

Environment Management $3,140,952

Community Investment
Community Economic Strategies $12,800
Community Economic Institutional Capacity $933,900
Total $946,700

Infrastructure
Community Infrastructure Assets and Facilities $5,485,309
Water and Wastewater Infrastructure $9,532,301
Education Facilities $9,307,998
Housing $4,300,567
Total $28,626,175

Including “advances for hydro arrears forgiven” and expenses related to a dike project, Aboriginal Affairs reports a total of $84,886,755 in funding.




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Attawapiskat math

  1. We didn’t ask to see Hati’s books before helping.

    • you should have.

      • We are talking about humanitarian aid at the moment.

  2. So this government  is doing what they call ‘throwing money’ at the problem with these results?  This is what they always accused the Liberals of doing.

    • 9 million on educational facilities for a community of 3,000. Wow…

      • Yeah, they should’ve gotten the cut-rate school tent….oh wait, they did

      • And they haven’t had a school for 12 years,
        it’s being built next year.
        So where are the facilities?

        • They had to stop using the school because of ground contamination.They brought in portables.  I wonder how much they got hosed for those?

          • Wait a minute…if you look it up on Wikipedia…the money for the school was provided in 2000, when the Liberals were in power.  The band spent the money on portables instead of building a school.

          • Well, the Minister seems to think he’s building it.  Mind you he seems very confused.

  3. Once the forensic auditors get involved here, Adscam is going to look like a simple shoplifting case in comparison.

    • Yes, this looks awful for Harper…..and at Xmas too.

    • It does at this early stage, look like there has been a horrendous lack of oversight, but unless there is evidence of funds diversion to the CPC or related interests by party members, it’s in a different class than adscam.

      That’s by no means a defence of what happened, and the government definitely has a lot to answer for. It’s potentially a much blacker mark on the CPC than Adscam was for the Libs, but that will depend on what gets turned up, and whose black hole the money disappeared into. I could be wrong, but this doesn’t look to have the CPC stamp on it. Their trademark is sleaze and arrogance; this goes well beyond that.

      • All bets are off if the consultant they send in is Bruce Carson. 

      • I’m not talking about the CPC. “guest” below is on the right track.

        • Yes, that’s where my suspicions lie. That’s why I’m not keen on comparing it to Adscam; it’s likely not linked to federal party politics.

          • Agreed. I was referring to how big the graft appears to be, and in how many reserves…didn’t mean to suggest corruption at the federal politics level is involved here.

            I’m hoping that this is the last straw that motivates the government to once and for all blow the doors off and expose the obvious corruption going on across native reserves like this one…but I’ve been disappointed before.

          • So everything is the fault of the aboriginal leadership – is that it?

      • Are you guys aware that the bands are self-governing?  They usually don’t require “oversight”?  If the money was given for a school in 2000 by the Liberals and the school was not built, that was the choice of the band council.  If the band got $5.8 million dollars for housing and decided to fix up old houses rather than buy new engineered homes for everyone, that is also the bands choice.

        • I’m sorry but you are very wrong.  All First Nations are not self-governing.  The only legislated Self-Governing Entities in Canada are the James Bay Cree in Quebec and Nisq’a in BC.  All others are provided annual funds from Federal Departments through contribution agreements.  There is meant not only to be fiscal oversight but programming support…this is where AANDC has done a huge injustice to this (and many other communities)…by not supporting the communities in delivering programming.  The attitude is cut the cheque and then walk away…that way AANDC is not responsible for this type of outcome (and the FN can be quickly blamed).

          • This is what Sheila Fraser addressed in her report.  She was very critical.

          • You really should check out the blog Holly provided on the other Macleans online article.  In it, the band explains how they spent the money allocated for housing…close to 5 million dollars.  They made the decisions on where the money went.  Wikipedia also pointed out that in 2000 when the Liberal govt. provided funds for a school, this band did not build a school but brought in portable trailers instead.
            As I said in my comment, not every community requires the same sort of oversight that this one seems to.  Someone built those “sheds” that people are living in.  Meanwhile, the chief is driving around in someone’s comfortable “house”….

        • Further to Aaron’s comment, this band is jointly administered by the Feds, so there is a failure somewhere on the government side – but almost certainly at the lower bureaucratic level, if the things I’ve read so far paint an accurate picture.

        • Right on.  See my post above.

        • Insider has it correct.  Much of the money transferred from the feds to the native reserves is spent as the band sees fit – although such monies are generally allocated (read suggested) to a specific project by the ministry. 
          But who cares where the money goes as everyone knows as soon as the natives contact the media about their dire financial situation and babies sleeping in snow banks they’ll get a fresh wad of millions. 
          The concept of self governing first nations needs to be reviewed as long as taxpayers money is involved. 

          • Well, Harper’s on it now – good to see that after 6 years he’s recognized there is a problem. 

    • The general problem is more than complicated. The Indians bang their drums and talk about their sacred lands and so on but many of these have not lifted a finger to help themselves.

       The Indians use the residential school thing to avoid the question of why didn’t adapt to what has to be done to survive in the modern world, i.e be ducated and trained. Where they have there is a proposperous and healthy reserve: example Osoyoos where there is a destination class golf resort, RV park, chalets and condos going for $300 a night. And where the income goes to build decent housing, provide education and training etc.   There are several other examples.like Osoyoos.

       
      Why have these Indians at Attawpiskat stayed in a loser place – weather, difficult infrastructure and also lack of jobs?

      In my day I helped fly tubercular  Indians from all over the eastern half of the North and Arctic.  Some of those places have adapted to modern challenges, others have not and stay drummning about their scared lands while their children are abused undernourished or sniffing glue while their partents are drunk.  Therehave been cases where the parents have their children ingest tobacco and with the resulting sickness take off to get drunk in Prince Rupert.
      .  
      Yes it will be more than interesting to see where the money went.  Wherries large numbers don’t tell the tale, particularly when a Zamboni is bought out of “education” money.  Or when the chief hires a charter plane for a personal visit to her daughter.   Does a Zamboni rank ahead of decent housing, sewage and water?

       I remember a reserve in Sask where the clean water intake was installed downstream from the sewer outlet!.  There was a lot of crying but a few shovels and strong backs could have remnedied the problem in a day’s work. None of the men picked up a shovel.  It was Indian Affairs responsibility.

      Before everyone starts crying in their beer let’s see the forensic accounting. . 

  4. How come anyone “challenging” these figures, including the article itself, opt not to share the numbers of people in the Attawapiskat community?

    • googled this:
      There are over 2800 members of Attawapiskat First Nation, but the local on-reserve population is approximately 1500 (INAC, 2009).

      Read somewhere there are 2100 persons living on the reserve, half are under the age of 25.
      So likley about 600 kids in school.

  5. Where is the accounting for the non-Government income?
    $325 million over last 5 years:

    De Beers Canada is continuing to work with the community throughthe IBA to ensure we maximize the benefits available through• Employment; • Business contracts; and• Training; • Direct financial compensationSince the start of construction, over $325 million in contracts havebeen awarded to solely owned or joint venture companies run bythe community. In 2011, contracts awarded to the community total$51 million.
    http://www.debeerscanada.com/files_3/pdf_documents/fast_facts_vm_attfn.pdf

  6. I noticed that the chief of the village drives an escalade

    • And has a TV antenna, and watermelon growing in the garden.

      Yeah, I heard that in the 50s about blacks in the American south.

      • Don’t try to make guest’s comment about race, Emily. Corruption & greed are sadly all too common in all of human society. If money is missing, the most obvious suspects are those holding the purse strings – the council and the people responsible for Federal oversight. Skin colour &/or ancestry are beside the point.

        • I don’t recall being the one to make it racist Keith. I pointed it out.

          If you don’t think racism enters in to this, you’re dreaming.

          ‘If money is missing’…..that’s Harper’s line. Took you how many minutes to pick it up, and repeat it?

          • The commenter pointed out that the chief drives an Escalade in a community where so many live in abject poverty.

            To me, that says the commenter saw visual evidence of what he or she took to be a potential misuse of funds (or at least bad taste and a callous disregard for those she supposedly leads).

            You, on the other hand, automatically jump to the conclusion that this is some kind of racial slur against aboriginals.

            Sometimes, the bias lies not with the speaker, but with the listener.

          • Harper has a hairdresser travel with him and 1500 communications personnel or whatever it is.

            Other Canadians live under bridges.

            The racism lies in the fact that you figure she doesn’t ‘deserve’ her pay because of the poverty of those under her watch.  Yet you don’t apply the same criteria to others (including Harper but we can go with McGuinty, or Obama or anyone else, really)

          • See – and now you’re calling me a racist because I didn’t jump to the same conclusion as Emily. You and Emily ought to know better.

            I didn’t say she doesn’t deserve her pay; I just think it’s bad optics to be driving a luxury vehicle if you’re living in such a small community with such abject poverty. The band council, of which she is the head, is there to oversee the well-being of the whole. I spent a year in an even smaller remote community on the coast of Labrador, and I know how the people there would have felt about such a display of wealth by a council member (assuming said member didn’t have an alternate source of income – as may be the case with the chief).

            Guest may have jumped to conclusions as to the chief’s source of wealth, but no more than you or Emily have about guest’s – or my – views on aboriginals. And that’s my point; the reader is assuming more than is there, and that reflects more on the reader than the writer.

            I’m suspicious of the chief as well, but it has nothing to do with her race – or the Escalade (and I’m taking guest’s word on that, barring evidence to the contrary; I didn’t see any such picture). It has to do with reporters who have only just begun to dig around coming up with suspicious invoices, bad record-keeping, and accusations from community members.

            As for Harper, well, my opinion of him is well known. LOL!

          • The commenter doesn’t even know who the chief is….and in any case you can buy one for 12K

            I’ve heard these racial slurs before, so I recognize them.  They are used against any minority living in poverty.

          • Do we even know for a fact the chief drives an Escalade?

          • I’m sorry, KeithBram.  I like you a lot and I don’t believe you are an evil person or anything like that.  However, you really are using one set of criteria for this woman, and another set of criteria for all ‘mainstream’ if you will, people in charge.  And you did it instinctively–I know because maybe yesterday I’d have said the same thing.

            In no other industry, community or political entity do we look at the lowest income person to figure out the rate of pay for the highest person.  We look at the amount of work involved, the skill set required, the rate of pay that would attract suitable persons to the job, etc.

            Maybe our way of doing it for everyone else is the wrong way, and looking at the lowest to figure out the highest is the right way.  I’d actually be good with that up to a point.  But even if we did that, would you say four times or five times the lowest income?  Because you can’t expect it to be the same as the lowest income.  So is $71,000 (which includes travel reimbursements as part of the job, which isn’t fair to do) really more than four or five times the lowest income?  I don’t know, but it seems a stretch to be terribly out of line.

          • Not sure where you’re getting that salary, but if there’s illicit activity her salary is not relevant. I’ve seen several stories now on questionable spending – and this evening CTV revealed that the federal appointee responsible for ensuring the money is properly spent is chosen by the council – and happens to be the mayor’s husband.

            Unless the media is racist and out to get this woman because she’s aboriginal (a bit of a stretch, no?) then there are mounting reasons to suspect that not all is aboveboard.

            This simply smells, and an investigation is needed. If there is wrongdoing, corrupt individuals should not be allowed to skate just to avoid the possibility that someone will drag out the race card.

            (BTW, I like you too, and normally find myself on your side of any given argument – but if you think my opinion is race-based, then we’re definitely on opposite sides this time.The assumption of racism simply because someone has a different [valid] view is its own form of racism.)

          • Okay, if she’s skimming that would be above the salary, I grant you that. 

            I also quite agree that an investigation is necessary.  And I also agree that whether someone drags out the race card or not should have no bearing on having an investigation.  It must not be allowed to be used as a ‘do-over’ card or something.

            I was ONLY commenting on the salary (I thought everybody knew that) vs. the poorest members of the society, which we do seem to do with certain portions of society, but not with others.

          • True re the salary issue. Franky, I hadn’t even given salary a thought until you raised it.

            Still, enough for now about the chief and speculation as to whether or not she’s involved in shady dealings. We should more properly be focussed on what we, as a nation, are going to do moving forward to provide adequate housing to the residents of this reserve and others like it. I was sadly unaware of how bad things are and why; some of the things I’ve been reading have been real eye-openers.

            I’m sure Harper will try to blame past Liberal gov’ts, but it’s been his problem for years now and it’s time he starts focussing on this, rather than building more prisons.

  7. The budget expenditures for certain governments I’ve non-randomly picked are:

    Government of Canada expenditures (2011): $276000000000 ($276 billion)
    Government of Ontario expenditures (2011): $124070000000 ($124 billion)
    Government of Toronto expenditures (2010):    $9383000000  ($9.4 billion)

    The population of Toronto proper is 2503281 (2.5 million).  This represents a .187 share of Ontario’s population, and a 0.0734 share of Canada’s population.  Assuming that tax spending is spread evenly (it’s not, I know, but gimme a break, this is a forum post and I have to catch a ferry), Toronto’s share of total tax expenditures across all levels of government for a single year is $52.8 billion ($23b from Ontario and $20b from Canada).  Per capita, that works out to $21117 per person per year.

    The numbers provided for Attawapiskat are $84,866,755 and wilson posts an on-reserve population 2100.  The total expenditures in Attawapiskat are therefore $40412 per person OVER 5 YEARS, or $8,082.4 per person per year.

    Edited to add more numbers! Attawapiskat’s consolidated schedule of programs (essentially their budget) is here (pdf). Revenue from all sources was $33 million last year. This includes payouts from INAC, Health Canada, OFNLP (Casino Rama), Ontario, contracting and user fees, Mushkegowuk Council, CMHC, Attawapiskat trust, and the mysterious other category. $33,000,000 / 2100 is $15715/person, which is still much less than my Toronto calculation of $21K per person. I won’t edit the rest of my post, so people can see what errors I made. :)

    As long as we are talking numbers, we should probably compare this community to others.  $15000 per year doesn’t compare well to $21000 per year.

    • “$8000 per year doesn’t compare well to $21000 per year”

      Yup, and that’s before adjusting for the high cost of living in the north.

      I think wilson, john_g, guest et al should address your comment before resuming their uninformed rumour-mongering.

    • But that is only revenue from the federal government. They also get payments from casino revenues and from the provincial government, which would dramatically increase your $8 000 figure.

      • Yah, I thought about that this morning.  I’ll see if I can find sources for provincial and the equivalent of municipal revenues tonight.  Although I doubt it will change the numbers much, as First Nation funding primarily flows through the Federal Government.

        Edited to change a misconception I had about Casino money. Rama does pay out a portion of profits to Attawapiskat.

    • Throw in the higher costs of living, building infrastructure, having to fly out medical emergencies etc. 

    • There are expenses in a city like Toronto for big ticket items like transit, water treatment on a big scale, garbage disposal, door to door mail service, etc. that don’t come into play in a small community so it is really not a fair comparison.  Maybe you could compare what happens in a small northern town of 2,500 to 3,000 people v. the reserve in terms of funding but Canada’s largest city….no, I don’t think so.

      • Cities have numbers on their side.  And location – i.e. not built on permafrost. And healthcare – you should know about that – when you have to fly people out it costs money. 

        • Any community that is a distance from a large city hospital has to fly people out for healthcare.  Nurses in northern stations provide all the services of a family physician and only patients requiring surgery would be flown out…just as they are from any small community.

          • What is your hangup about acknowleding that there are higher service costs for remote communities? 

      • Kapuskasing – about $2,500 per capita yearly
        Hearst - about $4,000 per capita yearly
        Cochrane - about $6,000 per capita yearlyVal Rita/Harty - about $2,500 per capita yearly
        Moonbeam – about about $2,000 per capita yearly

        • Can you explain where you got those numbers?  If those towns are comparable in size and remote location to Attawapiskat then this is remarkable.  Did Attawapiskat really get 1.25x – 4x as much funding as similar non-reserve towns and end up with abject poverty instead of even a typical Canadian town’s standard of living?

          • Website –> Financial Statements –> Expenditures(rounded)/Population(rounded)

          • You should watch a video on you-tube done by National Geographic Canada in 2010 about the school crisis in Attawaspikat.  It tells a very disturbing story about the community not having a school, etc and over-crowding in houses.  It also discusses the deaths of young in the community but you don’t see the sheds that you see in the videos now.

        • Those are municipal expenditures, I take it.  You are comparing apples to gazebos.

      • I agree, the costs of everything (construction material, healthcare supplies, teaching supplies, etc.) will be different for a remote northern community than for a bustling southern metropolis.  My comparison isn’t fair at all.  If anything, I’ve erred in not matching the much higher expenses that remote communities along James Bay will face.

        • That is why I suggested you look at the government funding for another remote “northern” community that faces the same higher expenses.  Perhaps a small comunity outside of Yellowknife.

    • On reserve population is 1300, not 2100.  33 million per year divided by 1300 = $25,384 per person per year.  Total band population is 2100,k so we have 800 off reserve, so 25K is probably a bit high, but there’s room for it to move down before it’s below Toronto’s assumed 21 k per habitant per year.  Now lets forget that silly nonsense about your assumption that gov’t spending is distributed evenly across the country because we know that’s not even close. 

      • I just used wilson’s number.  The only source I could find for population was the 2000 census, which is too old. I’ve seen numbers ranging from 1300 to 2500. My silly nonsense about even distribution is silly, I agree.  Federal spending in large municipalities is higher than it is in rural Canada, as is provincial.

  8. Canada is being represented as a nation that does nothing for it’s native population, yet the facts belie the insults. Clearly, the Canadian taxpayer has outlandishly generously supported this community.

    So, the question is: Since they have nothing to show for all of the assistance they have received, where is the money?

    All reserves should be under third-party control, as far as the dispensation of aid goes. Only in this fashion can we determine how and where our tax dollars are spent. We are held accountable for the conditions these people have to live in, so we must manage the investment of our dollars.

    • We have a Minister and large bureaucracy in charge of this, maybe they could start by reading the AG’s report. 

    • “Clearly, the Canadian taxpayer has outlandishly generously supported this community.”

      Yes, do please tell us the “facts” supporting that statement. Help us understand how much money has been provided there, what it was intended for, whether it was sufficient to meet those goals and how it compares favorably to other Canadian municipalities.

      I’ll wait right here.

  9. On reserve population is 1300, not 2100.  33 million per year divided by 1300 = $25,384 per person per year.  Total band population is 2100.   We have 800 off reserve, so 25K is probably a bit high, but there’s room for it to move down before it’s below Toronto’s assumed 21 k per habitant per year.  Now lets forget that silly nonsense about your assumption that gov’t spending is distributed evenly across the country because we know that’s not even close.  For example, military spending alone is $21 billion in 2010, ditto for things like the Canada Border Services Agency, the department of Foreign affairs and int’l trade budget, etc etc etc.  The problem is simply not a lack of funding and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.  The community has no reason to exist, there’s no economic reason for it.  The only way to fix this is to stop the welfare tap and make them move elsewhere and get jobs.  Working for a living is the only long term solution here. 

  10. Three other comparisons from the AANAC spreadsheet:

    1. Total annual band revenue vs. total annual AANAC contributions (averaged): $27.3 million vs. $17.0 million (AANAC represents, on average, 62% of band revenue).

    2. Total annual AANAC capital allocations vs. total annual AANAC contributions (averaged): $5.7 million vs. $17.0 million (on average one third of AANAC spending is to build houses and facilities and operate facilities)

    3. Average proportion of AANAC capital allocation earmarked for housing: 15%, for a total of $4.3 million (15% of AANAC funds dedicated to building and operating facilities are earmarked for building houses).

    My conclusions are:
    -AANAC spends a lot here.
    -AANAC is aware there is a housing problem.
    -AANAC earmarks about 15% of its capital spending to address the housing problem.
    -AANAC represents 62% of the band’s revenue.
    -We don’t know whether AANAC funds are spent as earmarked, and we don’t know how other funds are spent.

    My questions are:
    -how much of the band’s revenue and spending is discretionary? (we need the full audited financial statements to know this)
    -if housing represents a state of emergency how has the band addressed that state with its discretionary spending? (e.g., has the band directed any non-AANAC funds towards housing, and  what fraction of the 38% of non-AANAC funds could be directed towards the problem? what existing fixed commitments lock up those and other funds?)
    -what analysis underpins the AANAC housing earmarking? Are AANAC spending envelopes each part of pan-community programs or do they address community-specific needs, and is there any way to adjust total spending? (i.e., is it $X/community/year for houses, or $X/person/year, or $Y for community Z because things happen to be awful, and can things be allocated from schools to houses?)

  11. what is comming up but the War anivery of 1812,  the missing part of history is the Native American piece.  We won the war.  it is why Canada Exists today, they could have take even more from the americans but the British Abandoned the Natives on the Field.  So you can say Canada won but the US did not lose.

  12. the comunity looks like it would need 183 million in the next five years to get where everyone else is.  then it would take at least a 90 million indexed for population grouth and inflation every five years after.

  13. the government will not help, it will cost about 183 million for the next 5 years to bring them up to date.  Anouther 90 million in five years indexed to population growth and inflation.

  14. the saviors of Canada are going to be the myartars of it as well.

  15. I math of my own that causes me concern.

    Given money to manage, while trying to maintain cultural practices while focusing on turning a profit for their people has resulted in internal conflicts, miss appropriation of funds and the slow destruction of a noble culture.I think the real shame here is the fact that our own government seems to either be ignorant of this and possibly using purposeful neglect of this obvious problem on the native reserves since they were established to regain control of the land for industrial and commercial use once they fall into disrepair and are forced to move or abandon their land claims. The fact that this seems to escape the attention of the media and the general public causes me great concern not just for the future of the Native people and cultures but for the country itself.

    (I’ve posted this under another article by accident but maybe it will bring more attention to the problem.)

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