By Roy L Hales
There were two key Cortes items at the Strathcona Regional District Board’s April 25 meeting. Chair Michele Babchuk said the SRD hopes to hold a final consultation meeting, regarding funding for first responders funding and the island’s two community halls, in early June. We may be looking at a referendum next Fall. Also, the Klahoose Nation’s Grant-in-Aid application was approved.
The Klahoose Application
”I just look at what the program is designed to do. We have the electoral area that supports it. It is their money which comes directly out of the electoral area constituents and I don’t think this should wait. Personally and as the chair of the First Nations Relations Committee, actions speak louder than words and I think it is important that the contribution be made,” said Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield.
Sayward Director John McDonald agreed, “I’m going to support this. I really think things are just carrying on too long for reasons we really aren’t sure of … Why keep waiting? Why keep stopping something where possibly they are getting a summer student to work?”
Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson pointed out that if a decision is not made soon, the Klahoose will not be able to hire a summer researcher this year.
The Klahoose Nation asked for $5,000 to hire a researcher to catalogue information on artifacts, burial sites, and culturally significant sites currently held in government records. They are committed to raising another $5,000 themselves. The information derived from this study will allow the Nation to pursue repatriation where it seems appropriate.
Opposition From Director Leigh
The only voice raised in opposition to the application was Oyster River Director Brenda Leigh. She initially pointed out that the federal government is considering funding reparation programs.
“It would be fantastic if the federal government supported this kind of work,” replied Director Anderson. “Certainly, $10,000 is not going to complete this work. $5,000 is requested from us to hire an intern to just simply catalog a hundred and some sites in their traditional territory.”
The 2018 GoFundMe Campaign
On three separate occasions, Leigh alluded to the fact Chief Kevin Peacey contributed $150 to a GoFundMe campaign set up after Bernie Anderson’s cabin burned down in January 2018. Mr Anderson suffers from dementia. Director Noba Anderson is his daughter and legal guardian. Finding that he seemed happier living in her home, Anderson used the funds to build a bedroom for her father rather than a new cabin.
A number of people with various degrees of connectivity to seven Cortes Island non profits contributed sums of between $20 and $100 to the GoFundMe campaign. None of them were serving on the boards of any of these organizations at the time. Nor did they benefit personally. There is no real evidence of wrongdoing, just unsubstantiated allegations filed in a largely factually erroneous legal petition soon to go before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
The Klahoose Nation did not apply for a Grant in Aid in 2018.
2019 Klahoose Grant Application
According to Director Anderson, “This application was received in February . It went to the March Electoral Services Committee, at which point Director Leigh informed the committee that she had received a telephone call the day before from a Cortes constituent, raising a number of concerns … I have great concern around Grants in Aid that come from a director with a recommendation being sidelined by one phone call to another director.”
Leigh objected, “Just approve it and carry on is what we did with a lot of  Grants in Aid that went out to people who contributed to the GoFundMe campaign. I don’t think it is ethical to do that and I won’t be voting in favour of it because I feel there shouldn’t even be a perception of any kind of kickback.”
Director Charlie Cornfield responded, “Personally, I don’t have any idea who contributed to the GoFundMe campaign. At this point in time, It doesn’t enter into my decision making process. We are talking about dealing with a band, not an individual. That Nation has stepped to the table and said we will match, or at least contribute cash to it. We would like the Regional District to consider contributing to the project … and to me that’s what it is all about. It is about this level of government dealing with the bands level of government. … It is the whole band that benefits.”
Adams & Leigh Recuse Themselves
Though he expressed approval of the application, Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams recused himself because he was uncomfortable moving forward without a recommendation from the Electoral Service Committee. He left the room.
Cornfield responded, “The ESC (Electoral Services Committee) does not have the authority to approve or turn down a Grant In Aid. It is only this Board. As to the process, ESC followed due process by saying they had no recommendation and it was referred to this board. So process is followed. Bottom line is, this board approves any Grants in Aid.”
Leigh recused herself as well, saying “I think this is an improper process and I think paying a Grant In Aid to a GoFundMe contributor is wrong.”
The Final Vote
When the final vote was taken, Director Leigh appeared to be surrounded by a sea of arms raised in support of the Klahoose application. As she had recused herself, I did not see a single hand raised in opposition to the project.
All photos taken on July 14, 2018 when the Klahoose canoe Tl’emtl’ems left Squirrel Cove to take part in the Paddle to Puyallup – Courtesy Roy L Hales