With election looming, Sheg FN council still won’t meet

SHEGUIANDAH FIRST NATION—With the official final day of the Sheguiandah First Nation’s current council looming near (October 29) and the date for elections set for November 23, Chief Orville Aguonie has again tried to call for a meeting of council as a whole, again without much success.

The chief explained that he presented Councillors Kevin Mishibinijima and Derek Assiniwe with a letter on October 7, requesting that they attend a attend a special band council meeting on October 10 to sign off on the 2011-12 audit as well as all outstanding funding transfer agreements.

The audit has been a bone of contention between the two councillors and Chief Aguonie and Councillor Jake Ago neh for almost one year. In previous stories, the councillors noted that they had serious questions about the audit and would not sign a resolution passing the audit until those questions were answered. While the chief maintained that failing to sign off on the audit was causing the band to lose out on much-needed funding, the two councillors said they felt it was in the best interest of the community to get their questions answered first.

The councillors did not show up to the October 10 meeting.

Along with the notification of a special meeting, the councillors were also presented with a copy of a petition signed by 84 members of the community over the past three months. The petition read: ‘We, the undersigned members of the Sheguiandah First Nation No. 176, demand an end to the deadlock on council. We feel that Derek Assiniwe and Kevin Mishibinijima are not living up to the moral and fiduciary obligations that they were elected to. It has caused undue hardship, division, animosity and stress on our community. Derek and Kevin have not consulted the community as a whole and continue to act without the majority of SFN band members’ permission. We demand an end to this stupidity and we demand that the audit, funding agreements and McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm project be signed off immediately!’

The chief, in a letter to the community, called the councillors’ failure to attend the meeting “a slap in the face. We represent the majority but this carries no weight with them and is meaningless in their eyes. Apparently they do not take direction from the majority of band members.”

The chief told The Expositor that failure to sign off on the audit meant the stop of the five-year health transfer agreement with Mnaamodzawin, the 2013-14 funding transfer from Aboriginal Affairs for band operations, the 2011-12 Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) funding to the tune of $548,000, as well as a monthly subsidy for CMHC unit upkeep.

“The funding opportunities are out there, but they (funding institutions) need a BCR (band council resolution) first,” he added.

The final list of those running for election are in, with an all candidates’ night being held in the community this Thursday night, October 24, at 7 pm. The candidates for chief are incumbent Orville Aguonie and Richard Shawanda. Those running for the three seats as councillors are: incumbent Jake Ago neh, James Atkinson, Jackie Bowerman, Constance (Connie) Donaldson, April McDowell, incumbent Kevin (Gabby) Mishibinijima, Tanya Gertrude Sagutch, Georgina Thompson and Matthew Daniel Waindubence.

Chief Aguonie noted that Councillor Derek Assiniwe is not running for either chief or councillor in this election. “Him not running flies in the face of everything he said,” the chief said of Mr. Assiniwe.

The Expositor spoke with Mr. Assiniwe who denied that he had a hand-delivered letter from Chief Aguonie, but rather had found a copy of the letter on his bus, left behind by a student on his school route.

He said his reasons for not signing off on the audit remain the same—nothing has changed. “There were expenditures that had risen over 200 percent with no explanation,” Mr. Assiniwe said. “I have no formal financial background or training, but I picked up on this.” After attempts at asking the auditor for answers to his questions and being referred to the band office, the councillor said he got nowhere.

“Where did these dollars go, then?” he questioned. “There was no obvious reason, no major expenditures or hires.”

Councillor Assiniwe said he is not surprised that the chief is raising these topics again, this close to election time. “This is nothing more than a campaign boost,” he said.

“Orville speaks at length about being transparent, but the only thing that’s transparent is his blatant disregard for protocols,” the councillor laughed.

When asked about his name not appearing on the ballot, Councillor Assiniwe said he was nominated for both positions, but decided to decline. “I enjoyed the four years in my role as councillor, but it did take a toll on me.” The father of two with two jobs said he wanted more time with his family.

“There are quite a few exceptional community members who are running and I thought it would benefit the community more to have new blood,” he added. “I want to take more of a supportive role. I was told by an elder that I don’t have to be a chief or councillor to make a difference in the community and I believe that’s true.”

Alicia McCutcheon