Aboriginal Affairs Minister wades into controversy engulfing Manitoba chiefs' organization - APTN NewsAPTN News

Aboriginal Affairs Minister wades into controversy engulfing Manitoba chiefs' organization

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt has waded into the controversy engulfing the Southern Chiefs Organization which has been hit with allegations its grand chief used the Manitoba organization’s funds at a casino while his chief of staff faces a sexual harassment complaint filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The chiefs executive of the SCO are scheduled to hold an emergency meeting in Winnipeg this evening at 7 p.m. local time to deal with the allegations which have thrown the organization into “chaos,” according to one of the chiefs sitting on the executive.

Valcourt’s office issued a statement calling on the executive to act quickly to clear up the situation.

“Any misuse of taxpayers’ dollars is entirely inappropriate and we urge the executive chiefs to immediately address these spending allegations,” said Valcourt’s office in an emailed statement. “First Nations chiefs, councils and organizations are elected officials and thus are also accountable to their members.”

Valcourt’s office said the department has not received a complaint against the SCO, but would investigate if a complaint landed in Aboriginal Affairs’ inbox.

“Should an allegation or complaint be received the department will investigate the claim,” said the minister’s office. “Should (the department) find indications of criminal wrongdoing, the information would be turned over to policing authorities.”

Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches, who sits on the executive, said SCO Grand Chief Murray Clearsky needs to resign.

“I believe (the allegations) to be true and action needs to be taken forthwith,” said Meeches. “It just doesn’t make sense when you see the transaction record…I am going to support and ask for his resignation,” Meeches told APTN National News last week.

Clearsky maintains he has nothing to hide. He said he used the money at the centre of the spending allegations to fix his truck which broke down when he was in Minnesota.

Clearsky said the allegations are merely payback from staff he’s fired.

“Some of the staff are pissed off at me and (chief of staff) Mike Bear so of course, ‘I will bring you down,'” said Clearsky, in a previous interview.

Clearsky is facing allegations he withdrew about $10,000 in Shakopee, Minn., and Prior Lake Minn., from the organization’s bank account on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18. It’s alleged some of the money was used in a casino there.

Two withdrawals on Sept. 17 totaling a little over $1,000 came from an ATM at the Little Six Bingo ATM in Prior Lake, based on cross referencing information on snapshots provided of the SCO’s account statement to APTN National News.

The account statement also shows a withdrawal of $311 from a convenience store less than a minute’s drive from the Mystic Lake Hotel Casino in Prior Lake, along with seven withdrawals of $831 (exchange rate service fees included) from an ATM in Shakopee, which sits about 15 km to the northwest.

APTN National News has also obtained a copy of the sexual harassment complaint naming Bear, the chief of staff. Clearsky says he has written back to the human rights commission on the issue and would offer no other comment.

jbarrera@aptn.ca

@JorgeBarrera

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