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Samson Cree leaders deny financial wrongdoing as critics rally for audit

The chief and council of Samson Cree Nation denied financial wrongdoing Friday, attacking a “dissident group” after dozens of community members at a rally called for a forensic investigation of their spending.

Band leaders south of Edmonton attack 'dissident group' of critics calling for audit of their spending

Residents are frustrated with council's spending habits and took to the streets to have their voices heard. 1:34

The chief and council of Samson Cree Nation denied wrongdoing Friday and attacked a "dissident group" of community members who called for a forensic investigation of band spending at a rally on the reserve.

"The very act of attempting to discredit the elected leadership by misinforming the public at large is totally unacceptable," reads a communique to Samson Cree Nation Treaty 6 members, posted to Facebook Friday afternoon after the band leaders refused a CBC request for comment.

"The issues that have been advanced publicly by the dissident group comprised of anyone and everyone that has the desire to slander, defame, and laterally violate Samson Cree Nation ... is shameful, uncalled for and absolutely disgraceful."

Earlier Friday, a few dozen Samson Cree members including youth and elders held signs and chanted as they marched through the wet snow to the band office. Several vehicles filled with supporters trailed after them, including a circle of traditional drummers in the back of a pickup truck.
Sherry Greene said the chief and council have not responded to her letters requesting financial documents.

"We want our chief and council to start listening to the people," said Sherry Greene, who is leading the push for an audit.

Greene said she submitted a letter requesting detailed financial information to both local leadership and the department of Indigenous Northern Affairs Canada.

"Our leadership from Samson Cree Nation did not respond to any of our requests so this is why we are rallying here today because we want them to listen," she said.

Funding needed in mental health, suicide prevention

Greene said members are concerned federal money is not being invested properly in desperately needed areas such as mental health, addiction, suicide prevention, housing and family violence, while Samson Cree residents continue to suffer.

Greene has gathered more than 300 signatures in favour of an audit that would be conducted by the department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAC).
Samson Cree members calling for an audit of spending by the chief and council marched to the band office Friday. (Trevor Wilson/CBC News)

The call for increased accountability and transparency at Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, 90 km south of Edmonton, comes just weeks after CBC News reported on an audit at Alexander First Nation, northwest of Edmonton, that identified $2.1 million in unexplained payments by a former chief and staff.

Friday's Facebook post by Samson Cree leaders states that audits are presented at open meetings where members are encouraged to attend and provide "positive solution based feedback."

'Defamatory tactic'

Added the letter: "The allegations that Chief and Council mismanage and steal money is a well-used defamatory tactic that has been overused by dissident groups that seek to character assassinate and destroy the credibility of their own peoples.

"As Chief (Kurt Buffalo) of Samson Cree Nation I have never been asked or requested to address these types of concerns in writing."

The letter warns that RCMP are investigating the removal of financial information taken and disseminated "by those people who are destroying their own employment opportunity."

It also warns that First Nation leaders will confront those "who feel they have a right to continue being a negative force."
Musicians added their voice to the call for a forensic investigation into spending by leadership. (Trevor Wilson/CBC News)

A spokesperson for INAC said the department would consider a formal request for an audit submitted by a community member.

But the Facebook letter warned Samson Cree members that INAC is not an ally.

"Indigenous Northern Affairs Canada does not look after your inherent Treaty Rights," the post warned. "They do not care if you are starving, homeless, unskilled or employed!"

@andreahuncar      andrea.huncar@cbc.ca