Controversies heat up Chisasibi AGA

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Chisasibi’s recent Annual General Assembly featured particularly heated debate, including allegations of financial misconduct and an overall lack of transparency. A conduct committee found one council member guilty of violating the community’s code of ethics, resulting in his resignation.

After three months of investigation, the conduct committee determined that councillor Jeffrey Kitty was in a conflict of interest by accepting a project management contract that was not disclosed to council. While there were apparently no financial or other major damages to the organization, there was a clear violation of the code of ethics and it was recommended that he make a formal apology.

“They made it sound like a big controversy but at the end of the day there was no fraud, it didn’t warrant a major sanction,” Chief Davey Bobbish told the Nation. He said that Kitty is a civil technician by trade and had previously worked with the business in question.

“The recommendation was to make an apology. I guess some people didn’t accept that, they wanted further [action], but before we could enforce that he decided to resign and he’s going back to school this fall.”

The Nation is currently unable to confirm the actual details about the AGA because the minutes are unavailable.

Bobbish also downplayed another controversy brought to the meeting’s attention by a council member, who alleged that $350,000 was missing from a commitment made a few years ago to bring a respite care centre to the community. Bobbish disputes the accusation, stating that the money is still there and the commitment stands.

Discussions with Cree Health Board (CHB) to establish a respite home in Chisasibi remain ongoing and Bobbish said he just had a meeting with them this week to consider alternate sources of funding. He maintains that the misunderstanding is because funds previously committed from the Board of Compensation’s community fund were never actually allocated or even officially requested.

“We did a member’s resolution saying this is where we’re going to fulfill our commitment,” confirmed Bobbish. “But the thing is that resolution is still on our treasurer’s desk – that money was never received. Even if we find it from another source, it’s going to be fulfilled no matter what. The commitment is still there and will always be until we see the building up and running.”

He explained that Chisasibi and the CHB are considering funding the project through money that would be saved by not having to send individuals requiring care down south. Instead of compensating individuals for care typically provided in Montreal, the CHB would fund their care in Chisasibi and the portion currently allocated for transportation would cover the new centre’s operation and maintenance.

“When the day comes when the money needs to be dispersed, we will disperse it,” said Bobbish. “So there are no missing funds. People I guess don’t understand how funding works. When you commit, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have the funding available but you have to find a way to fulfill that commitment.”

He told the Nation that current priorities for the community include completing a major hospital, establishing new schools and private housing, and paving Chisasibi’s roads. As the community grows, they are also looking to expand the airstrip to accommodate larger aircrafts.

Bobbish, who has been Chief for six years and on council for the last 20 years, agreed that the meeting of about 200 community members was heated but he said he’s seen worse.

“It’s a normal thing that people have questions,” he said. “I don’t take it personally – I’ve got nothing to hide. There’s nothing wrong with a heated debate sometimes.”

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