March 4, 2009

A Letter to the Community

My name is Dustin Rivers. I am Skwxwu7mesh. I was raised in the communities of Eslha7an and Xwmelch’stn. I write to you regarding the Squamish Nation General Meeting on March 8th.

In our community, we have a few members who benefit, but there are many of us who do not; some of us are in pain, then others do not care enough to change it. I see our nation being lead down a dark road. As a youth of this community I want to do whatever I can to make strong positive changes so we will be a stronger nation with a brighter future. It is my hope that all community members attend this upcoming General Meeting. I would like to see the kind of changes we deserve, the kind we need, and the kind we can bring in together. At the upcoming General Meeting, I will be motioning for a few proposals I am bringing forward. I have a dream of a brighter future.

My elders and teachers have taught me to be informed about what happens in our community, to be apart of the decision making process, and give of myself to the community. I believe things cannot stay the same. I want to see change for the betterment of all. We all have stories and experiences of the inequality in our nation, but this can change.

One of our current political leaders said to me once, “The role of our youth is to remind the older leadership of their responsibilities to the community, and to remind the older leadership about who they once were.” I too feel this is a role of our young people, and some things are so far out of line, we cannot be silent anymore. We must up and say no to the present state of things. We must say no to the unfairness. We must say no to the injustice. We can say yes to a better community.

At this general meeting, I will be asking for the community’s support on:

1. The creation of councilor “Term Limits”
The Band Council elections are popularity contest. Large families are able to dominate positions at the table. The Council table does not represent the people fairly or justly. For many, this means some councilors are able to remain in their positions, attain power and control over years, and successfully aid in the inequality of our nation. The people are not equally represented at the Council table, and so it comes as no surprise that the decisions made are not supported by a majority of the people.

The elections are based on the candidate getting more votes then the next person. It is not representative of the people. Most of the councilors elected in do not have majority support. This allows for decisions to be made in the support of their small base of supporters, and not support for all nation members. The politicians elected in are then controlled by their group of supporters.

As a solution for this, we need new fresh and young leaders taking on the roles set before them. We need an opportunity for young leaders, and new leaders, to make the political decisions within our community. If term limits are created, the band councillors will not be able to make a “career” out of their position, and allow for others within the community to represent the people.

2. The separation of Band Councillor Positions and their staff positions.
The band council manages the affairs of the Squamish Nation, oversees finances, creates policy, outlines priorities, negotiates with outside parties for SN interests, and is the major decision-making power in our community with control over multi-million dollar budgets, and hundreds of staff.

There is a deep inequality of powers with this governance system. Right now, 2 out of 16 Councillors hold “Department Head” level positions, one of which has been appointed by the Band Council to also be “Acting Band Manager”. 10 of 16 Councilors hold staff positions. The councillor with the highest attendance gets paid the least. The Councilors with Department Head positions have million dollar budgets, access to massive resources in knowledge, expertise, and staff, while the other councilors do not. In other elected councils outside our nation, council members cannot hold staff positions because of a “conflict of interest”. A conflict of interest is when an individual or group has an interest that might compromise their reliability or when it will benefit themselves. They become conflicted in the decision making process because they use their power at the Council table as politicians to support either their department, or use their department to support their political agenda’s.

This is why I am asking for the separation of Councilor positions from staff positions. Let’s ask our political leaders to make leadership decisions for the people. Let’s require them work in a fair and equal way to make decisions. The present way is not fair or equal. We, the community, have to make it so. Otherwise the same things, where some benefit and other don’t, will continue to happen.

3.)Calling a forensic audit to investigate where our money is being spent.
In over 3 years, the Squamish Nation has not given a financial report to the people. We do not know where our money is being spent. Last year, the Squamish Nation had a budget for nearly $51 million. In 2002/3, this number was around $33 million, and we went into a $6 million dollar deficit which was never explained.

The question for the community is: does this reflect what you see and experience in your community? Does this feel like a nation that spends $51 million ever year? Then there is a question of, if the budget has increased nearly $20 million, where is this money going? We have a right as community members to know where this money is going, and have a say in where this money is spent. These are the reasons I say we deserve a forensic audit.
A forensic audit is procedures to identify if there has been any illegal, unauthorized or unprocedural use of Squamish Nation funds and assets, and establish the identity of those responsible. A forensic audit differs greatly from a “normal audit”, in that; trained forensic auditors will examine in detail each and every transaction. Background checks on individuals are carried out to determine if they are living beyond their means or have interests in companies/entities who received Squamish Nation funds.

A forensic audit is done independently from the Squamish Nation to ensure authenticity. It is a fact finding mission. It is to investigate. If there is any wrongdoing, then it brings it to another level which will have to be dealt with later also. One of the things many have wondered about this is, “Will this mean the Band Offices, programs and services will be shut down?” The answers is NO. The band offices, programs and services will NOT be shut down. It reviews past financial documents.

I believe that if future generations are to step up and become leaders in our community, we need to have a strong foundation to work with. Having this forensic audit done will show our people where our money is bleeding out from, so we can put an end to it, and ensure a more sustainable future for our nation.

This will all require a great deal from this community. I am asking you, as a someone who cares about his community, to support me in my proposals. I’m asking you to make a decision about whether you really want things to stay the same or if you want things to change. I also encourage you to come to the General Meeting with proposals for creating change.

What do you think needs to stop happening, and what needs to start happening? The people are the power of this community, and if we come together saying “Things need to change”, we can do that. So I ask you, to come to the General Meeting, to take this opportunity to be a leader for a better future for our nation.

Thank you for taking your time to read this
Dustin Rivers
by Rivers on Wednesday, March 04, 2009 |


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