Attawapiskat First Nations chief Theresa Spence is helped by supporters as she makes her way inside her teepee on Victoria Island in the Ottawa River next to Parliament Hill in Ottawa Jan 3, 2012.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
First of all, Chief Spence is not on a hunger strike. She's eating broth every day and drinking juice and medicinal tea.
As recently as three days ago, Spence was videoed walking about her compound on Victoria Island in the middle of the Ottawa River smiling, waving and greeting visitors. She was too spry for someone who has been starving herself for nearly a month.
More importantly - and this is true of the larger Idle movement - Spence shows no interest in taking ownership of the issues she is in Ottawa to protest. There is no recognition that much of the plight of Canada's aboriginals is self-inflicted. In her mind and Idle minds, everything is the fault of government and non-aboriginals.
Take for instance the reaction to Monday's leak of a Deloitte audit of Attawapiskat's finances. It showed 81% of the 505 audited transactions between 2005 and 2011 were improperly accounted for. A full 60% was spent without any supporting documents, whatsoever. Attawapiskat received $104 million from the federal government between April 1, 2005 and Nov. 30, 2011.
Still, Clayton Kennedy, who is Spence's live-in boyfriend and the band's co-manager (at a fee of more than $800 a day), blamed Ottawa for the sorry state of Attawapiskat's books. The lack of receipts, work orders, requisitions and cancelled cheques to correspond with tens of millions spent by band managers was, to Kennedy's mind, the direct consequence of Ottawa rejecting a band-council demand for a forensic audit in 2004.
Kennedy implied that if only Ottawa had granted the band's earlier request, the recent audit would have come out clean. That might make sense if the audit leaked Monday had dealt with the years before 2004.
But Monday's audit is for the seven years after the initial request for a forensic audit. What stopped the band from taking action on its own to keep better accounts after 2004?
Kennedy's excuse-making is only reasonable if we accept that Attawapiskat had no obligation to keep proper records unless and until Ottawa stepped in to track down past indiscretions.
Kennedy went on, "If everyone is so concerned about the lack of documentation, then fine, come back, start contacting the suppliers, go through the banks, get into it in a little more detail because I don't think you'll find any misappropriation of funds." Oh, yeah. Try that excuse if ever the Canada Revenue Agency claims you have failed to pay sufficient taxes.
"Dear Mr. or Ms. Auditor: If you are so concerned about the lack of documentation for the expenses I've claimed, then fine, start contacting my suppliers and banks for the details you want. Until then, I am under no obligation to pay you a dime." The next sound you would hear would be a cell door clanging shut behind you.
Such delusional unreality by chiefs and band administrators is, sadly, all too common. But what's the excuse for Liberal MPs?
Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic Carolyn Bennett claimed after visiting Spence's tent Monday, "There's no money mismanaged. There's no money missing."
She blamed the auditors for giving the band only 10 days to comply with the audit.
"Not any time for them to go and get the missing things from a warehouse or anything like that. It's a shame."
Of course, the very fact there are no documents to justify the spending of millions in taxpayer funds is the definition of mismanagement.
But like too many Idle supporters, Bennett is permitting ideology and the soft bigotry of pity to cloud her judgment.