The third-party managers of an Algonquin First Nation, Barriere Lake, have racked up over a million dollars in tax debt for the community.
Ottawa-appointed managers were charged with overseeing the community’s finances and are now facing questions from community leaders about hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to Revenue Canada, Revenue Quebec and the province’s workers compensation agency. Casey Ratt, chief of Algonquins of Barriere Lake, says he doesn’t know how the debt was accumulated. He’s also disavowing reponsibility.
“To date our council is still unaware of the exact amount of these payables,” reads a letter obtained by APTN National News, dated 16 November, from Ratt to Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. “We are not aware if these amounts have been paid nor do we have knowledge of a debt repayment plan and schedule.”
Barriere Lake is located about 300km from Ottawa and the government manages the finances despite opposition from the Algonquins.
The community has battled against what it calls government interference for years. In early 2015, it filed a lawsuit against the government and previous third-party managers over claims they have damaged the community “by mismanaging and withholding funds that were to be used for the benefit of the community and its members.”
In a press release from the Algonquins of Barriere Lake released in February with regards to the lawsuit, the community said: “The leadership and administration of Barriere Lake have been working diligently to regain control of our financial resources and governance, but the information essential to do so has been routinely withheld by Canada and by the third-party managers. Repeated written and verbal requests for the most basic information about our own finances have been ignored.”