Credits: Winnipeg Sun/Qmi Agency
WINNIPEG -- Members of a northern Manitoba reserve have called out their leaders for spending most of a trust fund set up by Manitoba Hydro in 2004.
In December 2005, the chief and council of Chemawawin First Nation had drained almost all of the $400,000 Chemawawin Resource Trust Fund to support representatives on the Cedar Lake Resource Management Board, Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) prairie director Colin Craig revealed Wednesday.
Band members sent a letter to Craig last month to inform him of the situation.
"Manitoba Hydro was very clear in the trust fund agreement -- the trustees were forbidden from spending the $400,000 initial capital investment," Craig wrote in a blog post addressed to Manitoba Hydro CEO Scott Thomson.
"The band was only to use interest from the fund."
The band's 2010-11 financial statements indicate the balance of the trust fund was just $17,364.According to the rules of the trust agreement, the only way the capital used to create the trust could have been spent was if the band passed a referendum.
Band members said there has been no such vote, Craig said.
"We're aware of the allegations -- that's one way of putting it -- and we're looking into it," Manitoba Hydro public affairs manager Bill Henderson said. "We were just made aware of it fairly recently and there's not much more I can say about it as we investigate it."
Henderson declined comment on Craig's question as to how a band could breach a $400,000 agreement eight years ago without the government corporation knowing about it.
"This should have been picked up a long time ago," Craig said. "Manitoba Hydro needs to explain what they're doing about this. We're talking about money taken from people who pay their Hydro bills."
The CTF had not received a response from Thomson as of mid-afternoon Wednesday.
Craig said the watchdog group hears from whistleblowers from across Canada.
"We just exposed a chief from Saskatchewan who was paying himself more than the Prime Minister of Canada," he said