BY JAMES WASTASECOOT
As the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) Trust continues to be the subject of intense scrutiny following its recent AGM and the Meadows land purchase, the community’s quest for clarity is met with more questions and few answers. Various stakeholders have weighed in, but the absence of comprehensive responses from key leaders leaves the community in a state of uncertainty and concern about its trusts.
The Meadows Purchase: Unanswered Questions
The Meadows land purchase has been a focal point of debates within the community. Sangita Bhalla, corporate Trustee who sits on the Financial Trustees of the Peguis TLE Trust maintains that that they have acted within their limitations as set by the Trust Agreement. The reply does not answer the detailed questions which Terra Indigena raised in an email (see excerpted email on this page) as raised by lawyer Lloyd Stevenson at the Peguis TLE AGM of May 24. Stevenson said there were financial irregularities, conflict of interest and third party involvement – Peguis real estate consultant Andrew Marquess loaned money to enable the purchase – complicating and potentially breaching the band’s TLE agreement and the Additions to Reserve policy to which Peguis FN is bound. It’s unfortunate that the lawyer did not communicate his concerns in writing.
Council is studying the matter
Considering the gravity of the concerns raised, a more considered, informed response from the council leaders was expected. This lack of a fulsome reply not only leaves critical questions unanswered but also raises concerns about the state of how band employees who work in the TLE Implementation Office are managed and held to account. Upon asking for access to a record on the legal concerns raised, Terra Indigena was told the concerns were communicated to the Trustees verbally but not by email or in writing. How then can Financial Trustees who say they’re job is to make sure the paperwork is in order if there is no paperwork submitted by the TLE Implementation Office legal department? Complicating things even further, the TLE Implementation office has not yet given a community report on last year’s activities which might have shed more light on the matter. No word from the council if and when this will take place.
The Role of Financial Trustees: Ambiguities Persist
Kathleen Mazur of RBC clarified that the Financial Trustees only ensure proper reporting and do not have the authority to structure purchases or set deal terms. Yet, this limited oversight role begs the question: what happens if Chief and Council withhold crucial information? Such concerns remain unaddressed, leaving room for skepticism and distrust.
Financial Health of the Trust: A Mixed Bag
The Meadows purchase isn’t the only topic that was controversial. The Trust recorded a loss of $3.8 million in 2022 due to market downturns. Despite the bleak picture, investment advisor Jack Jamieson offered a somewhat reassuring outlook, stating that ‘the trust is back making money again’.
Audit Report and Community Fund: More Questions than Answers Terry Luhowy of MNP LLP presented a clean audit report for 2022. However, a quorum of trustees was lacking, rendering the Community Fund inoperative for new applications. This governance hiccup adds another layer of concerns about how the Trust is managed.
Conclusion: The Need for Transparency and Accountability
The Meadows purchase, the role of Financial Trustees, delayed reports from the TLE Implementation Office, and vague council assurances all contribute to a complex web of uncertainties surrounding the TLE Trust. As beneficiaries grow increasingly frustrated with the lack of clear communication and accountability, the call for transparency has never been louder. With questions still unanswered, the community awaits decisive action and straightforward dialogue from all stakeholders involved.