Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson
Credits: MARCEL CRETAIN/Winnipeg Sum/QMI Agency
Peguis reserve in the Interlake region.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said Thursday that its grand chief, Derek Nepinak, "takes strong exception" to any suggestion that Peguis First Nation or other bands in the province are "prone to financial mismanagement and fraudulent activity" in their handling of disaster assistance funds provided by the federal government.
"The flood conditions faced by First Nations in Manitoba were not caused by the First Nations. The First Nations have been impacted the most - they have been forced from their traditional homelands and may never be able to return," Nepinak said.
"While weakened and reeling from these impacts, the First Nations now become easy targets for a government-induced media assault that sensationalizes unfounded allegations and continues to blame the victim."
Nepinak spoke out on the heels of a QMI Agency report Wednesday about a recent federal review that cites a litany of irregularities regarding Peguis expense claims, record-keeping, compensation claims for the reserve's chief and four councillors, and other issues related to flood protection and post-flood damage repairs.
Nepinak added that Peguis - a community of about 9,000 people, approximately 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg - and some other First Nations "are already under third-party or co-management, but yet are personally held to account for responsibility that has been re-assigned" by Ottawa.
Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson, whom the financial report says has made questionable compensation claims related to flood work, pointed out to QMI Agency this week that his band has been under the co-management of an accounting firm for about two years.
In an interview on Thursday, Nepinak said he wants the public to remember the "real issue" concerning flood-ravaged First Nations.
That, he said, "is the displacement of thousands of our people" last year during a severe flood that affected much of southern Manitoba.
Hundreds of Lake St. Martin First Nation residents continue to be housed at temporary accommodations in the Winnipeg area because of flood damage.