Theresa Spence knows how to court controversy -

Theresa Spence knows how to court controversy

The controversial chief wins re-election in Attawapiskat


Fred Chatrand/CP

Chief Theresa Spence can’t seem to escape controversy. Earlier this year, Spence famously sustained herself on a liquid diet for six weeks of bitter cold on Ottawa’s Victoria Island, in protest of the government’s treatment of aboriginal people. That protest united aboriginal activists and galvanized the Idle No More movement, but Spence wasn’t universally applauded by the rest of the country. During the protest, an audit into the finances of Spence’s northern Ontario community, Attawapiskat, showed a lack of paper trail for millions of dollars spent from 2005 to 2011. The timing of the audit’s release was suspect, but Spence’s reputation took a hit. Questions about her management of Attawapiskat dogged her as she emerged from Victoria Island.

Then, of course, the rest of Canada forgot about Attawapiskat. Now, Spence has reportedly won re-election as the band’s chief. Not everyone is overjoyed. The election was held on the reserve, and ballots were cast only in person. Off-reserve band members, who comprise almost half of eligible voters, complained that they couldn’t afford to get to Attawapiskat—and wouldn’t be able to vote. They urged the band council to delay the election. Even the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, led by national chief Betty Ann Lavallee, stepped in. But to no avail.

Voting went ahead, and Spence reportedly won another three-year term. She certainly knows how to draw a headline.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to recall Parliament for a debate on potential military intervention in Syria. The National Post fronts the increased odds of a U.S.-led intervention in Syria. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with concerns about new rules that will give more Ontario police access to tasers. The Ottawa Citizen leads with Harper’s call for a “firm response” to the alleged Syrian chemical attack. iPolitics fronts the back-and-forth in Quebec over forthcoming legislation that would ban religious symbols in public workplaces. leads with al-Qaeda’s condemnation of the current Syrian regime. CTV News leads with the UN envoy to Syria’s suggestion that a UN resolution is necessary to use force in the country. National Newswatch showcases Tim Harper’s column in the Toronto Star that tests the plausibility of Harper’s claim that his former chief of staff acted alone when he bailed out Senator Mike Duffy.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Cigarettes. A briefing document claims that about 50 illegal cigarette manufacturers operate on reserves in Ontario and Quebec, and they benefit from jurisdictional challenges. 2. Strike. Workers at Vancouver’s airport may go on strike over Labour Day weekend, a response to what the union call unfair demands for concessions as capital spending continues.
3. Credit unions. The federal government will fix an error in budget legislation passed earlier this year that accidentally more than doubled the tax rate paid by Canadian credit unions. 4. Canada Post. The country’s national mail carrier has warned that unless the federal government lends a hand, it could run out of money next summer as it pays for its bulky pension plan.
5. Racism. Craig Cobb, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen wanted for hate crimes north of the border, is buying land in Leith, N.D., in hopes of setting up an enclave for white supremacists. 6. Germany. Christian Wulff, who was president of Germany from 2010 to 2012, heads to trial for illegally accepting favours during his time as governor of Lower Saxony.

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Theresa Spence knows how to court controversy

  1. But, but….we were told she was unpopular and that even her own people wouldn’t support her….and now she’s been re-elected?

    Of course we were also told FN didn’t have elections.

    • I guess you are okay with election rigging? Did you read the story?

      • If people couldn’t make the effort to go back for a vote, they weren’t too concerned. That’s hardly rigging.

        Robocalls and overspending on the other hand…..

        • Miss Spence has proven to be a highly effective and fiscally prudent leader of her Reserve. Her brilliant strategic spending initiatives are too numerous to mention.
          The fact that any non-resident voters could not be bothered to spend the $2500 round trip airfare to Attawapiskat to vote against her is a sure sign that they support her wholeheartedly.
          The unequivocal support that she receives from those of us in the South is a reflection of our willingness to believe that the enemy of our enemy must be our friend.

          • If they don’t live on the reserve they aren’t too concerned about it in the first place.

            Perhaps we could lose the racism?

          • I would not have necessarily called you a racist for your implication that the natives .
            However, if you are looking for forgivness for such a remark, good luck.

          • So leaving your home to get an education or job means people should no longer care about what happens in said home?

          • Please point out one thing in Cawm’s comment that constitutes racism. It ain’t there.
            As usual, you’re playing the “race” card when you have no way to refute what the other is saying.
            You really have to give that up; it’s a cheap and unworthy ploy.

        • Did you miss this sentence? “Off-reserve band members, who comprise almost half of eligible voters, complained that they couldn’t afford to get to Attawapiskat—and wouldn’t be able to vote.” Can’t afford the airfare & “couldn’t make the effort” are NOT the same thing.

          • I don’t intend to join this sub-thread….so stop posting to me.

            There are days when I’d swear I was in the American south instead of Canada.

          • Try to get some help.

          • And once again Emily pulls out the racism card. It’s a cheap ploy you use to shut people down when they challenge you.

            There are lots of times when I agree with your posts – this isn’t one of them.

          • Then stop being racist….shame on you in fact.

          • And there you go again accusing someone of racism when they’ve said nothing that is remotely so.

            You know, it is possible for someone who is aboriginal to be an incompetent or crooked leader, and for a non-aboriginal someone to call them on that lack of character, without it having anything to do with their being aboriginal.

            (Further, while we are assuming Kay53 is not aboriginal, we have no way to know for sure on the basis of her comments here. You may be calling her racist for criticizing one of her own tribe, for all you know. She may be one of those disenfranchised because she didn’t have airfare.)

            Finally, if we follow your apparent “reasoning” to its logical conclusion, then any non-white who criticized Harper for the way he is running the country would be guilty of hating white people.

            Get a grip!

          • This comment was deleted.

          • Emily is the worst type of racist. While Spence is totally corrupt she is the type of white liberal that will protect Spence, rationalize her behavior and blame someone else. She treats natives like children because in her deluded reality adult traits like taking responsibility and being accountable don’t exist if you are native.

          • Do you have irrefutable evidence of Theresa Spence being “corrupt” ? If not, keep your baseless accusations to yourself – they add nothing to the conversation.

  2. I’m sure that at a salary of around $71,000 a year, she would be relieved that she was reinstated to her position. And as chief she’ll be able to rehire friends and family as well.
    A spokesperson for the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs stated on December 30, 2012, that by the end of 2103 the federal government will have spent close to $131 million dollars on the Attawapiskat reserve since 2006, including 60 new and renovated houses and a new school. It wasn’t until a financial audit, ordered by the government, revealed that millions spent by the Attawapiskat Band Council between 2005 and 2011 could not be accounted for. Plus, the money paid by Debeers, to run a mine on band property, has also not been accounted for. Other First Nation’s leaders criticized Chief Spence’s blatant fiscal mismanagement of band finances because it cast a shadow over reserves that followed proper bookkeeping practices. Perhaps she was simply following in the moccasins of Harb, Wallin, and Duffy, and was a little ‘confused’ as to what the rules were.

    • “… the federal government will have spent close to $131 million dollars on the Attawapiskat reserve since 2006, including 60 new and renovated houses and a new school.”

      Nope. Money has been spent on a design for a school, but construction was cancelled in 2007. Students are still taught in mold-infested portables.

      ” It wasn’t until a financial audit, ordered by the government, revealed that millions spent by the Attawapiskat Band Council between 2005 and 2011 could not be accounted for.”

      That same audit made it clear that there was no evidence of misappropriation of funds – the problem was poor record keeping. It also noted that record-keeping practices improved drastically when Spence became Chief, although more work needed to be done.

      “[Auditor General Michael Ferguson] found that departments reported spending $9.8 billion of the $12.9 billion allocated for security and anti-terrorism measures under the program but he couldn’t determine where the other $3.1 billion went. The Treasury Board had no clear answers for him.”

      Whoops – how did that get in there? It looks like our Conservative government is guilty of the same “blatant fiscal mismanagement,” except they’re not showing any improvement over time, and they’ve lost track of $3.1 BILLION.

      • Thank you.

      • Your selfish acceptance of the status quo in Attawaapiskat is evidence that the only creed you appear to live by is: The enemy of my enemy must be my friend.

        • This is the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day, and it’s been a long day.

      • Sure whatever you say TJ. .
        I’d think that if one was elected to be ‘chief’ of any band that having even a basic knowledge of general bookkeeping would be part of the job description. Apparently not in this case, or in any other in Attawapiskat in the past. Because when Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill who needs to worry about how it’s spent. It’s the white mans money. All they need to do is demonstrate how badly they’re being treated and there’ll be more where that came from.

        • Since you didn’t mention it, I’ll assume you checked your sources and found out that Attawapiskat doesn’t have a school after all. Right? Who told you that they did?

          And if you claim that Spence lacks “a basic knowledge of general bookkeeping,” then how do you explain the drastic improvement since she was first elected Chief?

          How about the Conservative government? By your standards, they also lack a basic knowledge of general bookkeeping. Does this bother you at all?

          “Because when Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill who needs to worry about how it’s spent. It’s the white mans money.”

          Well, there it is. Most people around here are a little more discrete with their racism. Good for you for getting it out there.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • And yet it took me all of 2 seconds to confirm that there is no school in Attawapiskat. Yeah, you “know far more” than I do about this topic. Too bad much of what you “know” is demonstrably false.

            BTW, attributing a negative characteristic to an entire race (“who needs to worry how it’s spent? It’s the white man’s money”) is as racist as it gets.

          • Is your name Emily?

        • “It’s the white mans money.”

          Ah no, it’s not.

          Although you could probably keep it if you wanted to give them all of their nation back.

          • This comment was deleted.

  3. It would be cheaper to have as a senator. I feel sorry for the people of Attawapiskat. 4 more years of mismanagement .

    • They just re-elected her.

      • After she disallowed those living off the reserve the chance to vote

        • Well if they don’t live there………

          • Do you also believe that Canadians living abroad shouldn’t be able to vote in elections?

          • I think the racism is getting people carried away.

          • …and there she goes with the “racism” thing again…
            Kay53 has said nothing remotely racist anywhere on this thread. Go back and look.
            You, on the other hand, have taken the stance that an aboriginal off the reserve doesn’t deserve to vote. That could easily be translated to read that you think they should all remain segregated in their little apartheid prisons.
            Between Kay53’s reasoned comments and your patronizing ones re aboriginals, if I had to pick one of you as a racist it wouldn’t be Kay.

          • You roam around here with consistently failed arguments and the rest of us pay an extraordinary penalty when your failures leave you resorting to a sort of Godwin’s Law.

            You have posted 7,516 worthless comments on this site and in approximately 80% of those you’ve resorted to referring to people you don’t know and could never know, as racists.

            That’s your clear record, perhaps even your life’s work, and it has fruitcake written all over it.

          • This comment was deleted.

      • We re-elected Harper; I feel sorry for Canada.
        Toronto elected Rob Ford; IU feel sorry for them.
        Voters sometimes make bad choices.