Chief certainly not an inspiration
By: John Barlow
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 01:33 pm
Calling someone an inspiration to all Canadians is no idle comment and a former prime minister should give more thought before speaking for all of us.
Last week former prime minister Paul Martin called Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence “an inspiration to all Canadians” and I think I speak for many when I say, “Excuse me?”
Ms. Spence is certainly not an inspiration unless one is inspired by an aboriginal leader who has completely failed her community.
Spence, who is currently on a hunger strike demanding an audience with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, should be taken to task for what has transpired in her community in northern Ontario.
The small First Nations community made headlines in 2011 because of a housing crisis.
Then last week auditors flagged the community’s budget stating documentation for expenses in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was woefully incomplete. More than 80 per cent of the transactions failed to include even proper receipts.
The federal government has contributed about $104 million to the community since 2005 and the recent audit stated there is little accounting for how the bulk of those funds has been spent.
While many in the isolated community live in squalor Spence collected a salary and expenses of more than $71,000 per year. In addition, there are 21 councillors on the Town’s payroll — 21 politicians for a community the size of Turner Valley?
Spence and her supporters have simply called the audit by Deloitte “wrong” with no further explantation.
Rather than explain where the money was spent or why the housing is in shambles Spence has diverted attention from her troubled community to the unfocused Idle No More protest and her “hunger strike.”
Spence and her council must be held accountable by those who trusted them to provide proper housing, education and health care.
Although Spence would like us to think differently, what transpired at Attawapiskat is not about racism or aboriginal rights, this is about a politician entrusted by a community who shirked her responsibility.