Mr. Speaker, I rise today to see if I can get some answers to a couple of questions I asked on October 26.
I called on the government to initiate a forensic audit into the finances of the Hobbema reserve in Alberta which has been requested by rank and file members. The conditions those people live in were reported in the
Globe and Mail
. About 80% of the people on that reserve are living on welfare. Children are sleeping on mattresses in the basement of burned out houses. How does their leadership live?
I will quote a couple of instances. In the Saulteaux band in Saskatchewan the chief's salary and benefits for 1997 were some $200,000 tax free. He had a brother who was a band councillor and pulled out a salary of $149,000. We would think that this would be the head of a very large city.
The mayor of Prince Albert probably makes a quarter of that amount of money to manage 35,000 people. There are 1,050 people living on that reserve and they have an accumulated deficit of $1.8 million. I could go on to talk about the Stoney band and the Samson Cree band and others. That is the financial picture of the leaders of those bands and the Hobbema band is no different.
Living conditions on reserves have been historically unacceptable. We agree with that. If nothing changes, living conditions will continue to be unacceptable. In addition to the living conditions that are terrible, the so-called democracy is terrible. It does not exist.
Last year I travelled to four or five different meetings where I listened to rank and file members of different reserves talking about the democratic and living conditions on reserves. What has our government's approach been? It has transferred power to the local band councils without ensuring that local accountability measures are in place to safeguard the interest of grassroots band members. Historically Ottawa has intervened to protect its own interests but who has intervened to protect the rank and file band members?
Band members exercise their authority with little input, direction or support from Ottawa, so what did we ask for? We asked on behalf of band members that the government would conduct a forensic audit, not simply that it would do some different accounting but that it would find out if money was being well spent or poorly spent. That is one of the purposes of a forensic audit. You can find out if all the cheques add up but so what? That does not tell you how the money was spent and that is what we want to know. When we look at the kinds of salaries paid out to the leadership we think there could be a lot of money left over for houses if it were not so much.
These people are making serious charges. I think the money is there. The children are suffering. The need is urgent. My question concerns why the minister will not initiate the forensic audits that the people she is responsible for are calling for.