RCMP won’t lay any charges after a four-year investigation into fraud allegations involving the Shubenacadie First Nation.
The investigation centred on the 2005 Contribution Agreement between members of the Shubenacadie First Nation and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to set up Indian Brook Fisheries.
The chief and council of Shubenacadie filed a complaint in 2005 with the RCMP alleging fraud by the councillors who set up Indian Brook Fisheries. The band said it was controlled by just those councillors and against the wishes of the wider community.
RCMP said there was insufficient information to decide if a criminal investigation was warranted.
But in 2009, DFO filed a similar request to the RCMP that included a forensic audit. The additional details prompted the criminal investigation into the five councillors involved in the fishery.
May have breached contract
The investigation wrapped up and the RCMP told the band there would be no charges earlier this month.
Insp. Glenn Lambe said in a letter to the band that the seriousness of the allegations merited an extensive investigation, but "there is insufficient evidence for criminal charges" and the RCMP probe is concluded.
"The actions of the five former SFN Band Councillors, all employees and directors of Indian Brook Fisheries Ltd, a band-owned company, may have established a civil breach of contract of contraventions of band governance regulation," he wrote.
"However, the circumstances did not meet the evidentiary requirements to establish the elements of either aforementioned criminal offence."
The 2005 agreement provided $5 million to the band to improve their capacity within the commercial fishery. Lambe said $4.2 million was disbursed and the forensic audit identified $647,158 as the "amount at risk."
Band welcomes news
Chief Rufus Copage, who took over the band’s top spot in 2012, said he expected the outcome he got.
He said the 2005 deal was between the DFO and a private company. If the DFO still wants to recover the money, "they’re going to have to take those [complaints] to the Indian Brook Fisheries directors, those that are surviving, because the band was never involved in this."
"At least we don’t have to worry about it anymore and can just look forward with our community," he added.
Copage said the band had closed that chapter and was developing its capacities. The band has a new manager and has taken control of its resources, he said.
"Today our band fishery is thriving," he said.