Willow Fiddler, Justin Brake
The Cat Lake First Nation says it has no plans to pay a consultant more than $1.2 million for his part in securing federal funds for the community to address its housing and health crises.
In a press release issued Thursday, the First Nation, located 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, calls consultant Jerry Paulin’s claim he is owed more than a million dollars “outrageous and disappointing”.
Paulin, who owns Thunder Bay consulting firm Windsun Energy Corp., was quoted in a March 31 Globe and Mail article saying he signed a contract with the band in November 2017 that entitles him to “10 per cent of all new monies brought into Cat Lake,” and that Cat Lake’s new chief and council has indicated it will not honour that agreement.
In January the First Nation declared a state of emergency due to the prevalence of mould in most of the community’s 124 homes, and a because of the health crisis leaders say is impacting more than 60 families.
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APTN News visited the Ojibway community in March, two weeks after Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan signed an interim agreement with band leadership promising $10 million to provide 15 new homes, repairs or renovations to 21 others, and 10 portable units for families to stay while their homes are being built or fixed.
A final agreement signed March 14 raised that sum to $12.8 million to cover the costs of the promised relief.
Despite the agreement, APTN learned that not only will the agreement leave some families living in unsafe conditions, but that Canada withheld funds to complete already in-progress constructions because the band was late delivering its financial statements.
Now, with money coming to help some families, Paulin says his job is done and he is owed the $1.28 million.
On Thursday he told APTN the situation is “awful,” and that he has been advised not to comment on the matter.
Paulin did say, though, “I have worked long and hard for Cat Lake and many members and Elders have contacted me to offer their support.”
He also confirmed he is no longer under contract with Cat Lake.
Chief Matthew Keewaykapo said in a written statement Thursday that he believes Paulin, who has spoken with CBC about the ordeal and reportedly provided the Globe with a copy of the contract, is using the media to pressure the First Nation to pay up.
“The idea that Jerry Paulin or any consultant expects to get a million-dollar windfall out of money that we desperately need for houses for Cat Lake families is atrocious,” the chief said in his statement.
“Jerry Paulin knows the desperate state of our housing situation. His claims for this huge payout are demeaning to all the families who are suffering in Cat Lake.”
Keewaykapow says in Thursday’s statement that Cat Lake’s relationship with Paulin ended in February 2019 and that Paulin was not responsible for securing the federal funding for the community.
“Cat Lake has been working with Canada on our housing mould issues since 1997, long before this consultant was ever in Cat Lake,” says Keewaykapow.
Despite the dispute over how the funding was secured, and related to the amount, if any, owing to Paulin, Keewaykapo says the band is considering paying the consultant a presently undisclosed amount of money for his work for the community, but from a source other than the housing funds.