APTN National News
An emergency meeting of the Roseau River custom council has led to a resolution to turf the controversial manager from the community’s gas station.
The unanimous vote comes on the heels of an APTN Investigates report that appeared to show staff using lists of customers’ status card numbers, to give non-status customers cheaper, tax-exempt gas and cigarettes.
It also gets the gas bar a bigger rebate cheque from the Manitoba taxpayer when tax-exempt gas receipts are submitted to the provincial government.
A whistleblower told APTN that management gives cashiers the lists and they’re to cross off status card numbers after they’ve used them for non-status customers. Deflecting the attention of Manitoba Finance by using a wide variety of random numbers.
The more treaty tobacco you sell, the bigger the rebate from the Manitoba government.
The rebate is given in compliance with Section 87 of the Indian Act. The gas bar management and Roseau River band council share the proceeds of that tax-free right 50-50. The gas bar is managed by a non-Indigenous businessman. It works out to $80,000 to $90,000 a month each for both the band and Red Sun.
In exchange, David Doer, who manages the gas bar pays the community just $10 a year in a contentious 20-year lease deal. One that some argue isn’t technically binding because INAC hasn’t registered a sublease on the land as it lacks designation as reserve land. The community rejected an attempt to designate the land as available for lease in a 2008 referendum. A year after the referendum then-chief Terry Nelson struck a deal to have Doer, the band’s former third party manager, open Red Sun in partnership with Nelson’s daughter, Kathy.
The gas bar has been operating on the goodwill of chief and council ever since. The current band council struck a fresh 20-year lease with Doer last July. For next to no rent and agreeing to a $4-million dollar payout for Doer if a future chief and council try to get out of the agreement.
Elder and former custom council chairwoman Lynda Roberts wants heads to roll. Chief Alfred Hayden and councillors Robert Henry and Zongidaya Nelson supported the new lease while councillors Cecil James and Guy Roberts rejected it.
“I’d like (custom council) to put forward an order that those three people cannot run for a political office. For chief or council. That they cannot hold a financial position in any way shape or form for the next 20 years,” she said.
James is calling on the Department of Indigenous Affairs to help remove the managers and scrap the deal once and for all.
“We’ve approached INAC and asked them to basically shit or get off the pot. And they basically say well there’s a new designation process in play and we’ll respect that but the reality is if they respected this designation process they would have respected the fact that this failed in 2008 and this business would not be here today,” councillor Cecil James said.
Manitoba Finance wouldn’t comment on APTN’s Red Sun report but said hypothetically, practices like what’s been outlined in the story “would not be in compliance with the agreements nor our tax statutes. As with any provincial taxation statutes, non-compliance or false reporting that is detected is investigated/audited and appropriate enforcement/assessment action is taken. This could also include fines, penalties and/or court charges.”
Tribal member Max Seenie hopes the band doesn’t lease out the gas bar, but instead manages it themselves like other communities have done, and keeps all the proceeds for the community to address a housing crisis.
“We have two families per household in Roseau and 20 years from now we’re going to have three in there.”
In the meantime James is urging people who think their status card was misused at Red Sun, to have their band contact Roseau River. James wants to investigate those transactions with information they hope to obtain from Manitoba Finance, because council is the legal owner of the gas station.
The RCMP encourages people in that situation to contact their local police.
Doer declined to be interviewed by APTN but through his lawyer denied wrongdoing and said Red Sun employees who have misused status cards in the past have been fired.