The battle to recover almost $3 million in unpaid hotel and meal bills for Manitoba First Nations flood evacuees has landed in court.
An Ashern, Man. hotel and a company owned by Misty Lake Lodge owner Michael Bruneau allege the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters (MANFF) and the Attorney General of Canada “refused/neglected” to pay the outstanding bills for almost a year.
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“They won’t pay me,” said Bruneau. “This is the second time this has happened.”
More than a year ago CBC News reported MANFF failed to pay Bruneau a previously outstanding $2.6-million hotel bill despite more than $85-million in federal funding given to MANFF by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to care for First Nations evacuees flooded out in 2011.
That bill was settled in July of 2013 when the federal department in charge made a cheque out to Bruneau.
Allegations of almost $1 million in late night snacks, excessive overtime and drug abuse by MANFF employees surfaced last year as well.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt announced last June that the Red Cross would handle long-term evacuations. That process started in February, but MANFF is still charged with handling short-term evacuees.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) ordered an audit of MANFF more than a year ago to find out what happened to the funding. That report will not be made public, though a summary is expected to be posted to the department’s website.
Bruneau said that the government promised to get to the bottom of the billing issues but he hasn’t been able to see the reports or audits.
“We have our invoices,” said Bruneau. “It wasn’t until all the money was spent that they challenged the bills,”
CBC News has called Aboriginal and Northern Development Affairs and MANFF, but calls haven’t yet been returned.