B.C. chief Ron Giesbrecht's $1M pay 'very troubling,' minister's office says

The office of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says it is "very troubling" that Chief Ron Giesbrecht of the Kwikwetlem First Nation in B.C. was paid nearly $1 million last year.

Chief of Kwikwetlem First Nation was paid $914,219 last year

Chief Ron Giesbrecht of the Kwikwetlem First Nation in B.C. was paid $914,219 in remuneration last year for his role as chief and economic development officer. (Facebook)

A chief from a small First Nation in B.C. was paid nearly $1 million last year, according to documents disclosed by the band.

Ron Giesbrecht of the Kwikwetlem First Nation is listed as the chief and economic development officer and was paid $914,219 in remuneration and $16,574 in expenses. The documents state remuneration could include salary, wages, commissions and bonuses.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said, "The reported salary of the chief is very troubling and his community members deserve an explanation."

According to a press release on the band's website, "We understand that seeing such a large number for the chief's salary is disconcerting, but for the sake of clarity, we wish to break it down for you."

A spokesperson for Bernard Valcourt, the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, says the chief's reported salary is 'very troubling.' The spokesperson says the community deserves an explanation. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The statement goes on to say that Giesbrecht's salary as chief and economic development officer was only $84,800, but he received a bonus of $800,000. 

The bonus was a percentage of the profit generated by the economic development officer.

The band says that as of April 1, Giesbrecht signed a new contract and the bonus was removed.

Money is from provincial land deal

According to the financial documents, the biggest source of revenue for the band was $8,225,000 from the province of British Columbia.

The B.C. government confirmed to CBC it paid the Kwikwetlem $8.2 million in a land deal last year. The band then paid Giesbrecht the $800,000 bonus. In a written statement, Giesbrecht said this bonus was part of his contract as economic development officer.

A B.C. government spokesman, speaking on background, told CBC News the land deal was the result of an economic benefit agreement related to land sales through the provincial Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens services.

The agreement says any financial benefit flows to the band and council, not any individual.  Under the Indian Act, the band and council are accountable to the federal government.

Jordan Bateman, with the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, says it's an outrageous amount of money.

"This is a chief who oversees 80 people, less than 40 of whom live on the reserve, and was paid $915,000 last year, tax-free, so for someone like me living off reserve, I'd have to make more than $1.6 million to get the same payout as the chief got," he said.

Chiefs' salaries show wide range

The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation say it's reviewing First Nations finances from across the country and has found several other cases where chiefs and councillors are making well over six figures,  but it says this is by far the largest payment.

The federation also says many other bands are very frugal and spend little on salaries.

The Kwikwetlem First Nation is a small band in Coquitlam, B.C., with a total of 81 registered members, according to the Aboriginal Affairs website. 

The receptionist at the band told CBC News that no one was available for comment.

The documents disclosing First Nation leadership salaries are a result of the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which required bands to post financial statements online earlier this week.

Over 600 First Nations across the country are now required to post financial documents online or they could face a court order or see federal monies withheld. 

Since the deadline on Monday, information for 80 bands has posted on the Aboriginal Affairs site, but it is unclear how many have posted on individual or tribal council websites. 

The documents posted show a wide range of salaries.

Chief John Thunder of the Buffalo Point First Nation in Manitoba reported earnings and benefits of nearly $130,000 in 2013.

On the other hand, eight council members of a First Nation in Ontario earned an average of just over $8,000 per year. 


  • An earlier version of the story carried a headline and text that said the federal minister of aboriginal affairs found Chief Giesbrecht's pay 'very troubling.' In fact, that quote came from a spokesperson for the minister.
    Jul 31, 2014 10:58 PM ET


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