Wilfred King says his community of Gull Bay is facing a possible state of emergency.
GULL BAY FIRST NATIONS, Ont. -- The chief of this small First Nation says his community is bankrupt.
Recently elected Chief Wilfred King said he returned to a community that was strapped for cash and as a result he's been forced to close schools, fire services and the band office. The chief maintains that shutting down these essential services, although illegal, was the only choice he had.
“We’re basically a bankrupt community,” he said. “We cannot provide any kind of essential services, which is desperately needed. It’s very deplorable. It’s unfortunate that you have people who are elected into a position of trust and authority and are supposed to represent the interests of the members and they leave the community in that state of affairs.
Policing, which is funded through other levels of government, remains as the community's only operating essential service.
King returned to the First Nation after winning the election Sunday and found that only $80,000 was left in the First Nation’s coffers. But even that amount was diminished as $45,000 worth of cheques were recently cashed.
King, who has previously served as Gull Bay's chief for eight years, said the community was financially sound when he left in 2010.
“It is a real shame. It’s not a good feeling when you work to build a community to reach financial status where we should be and now we’re back to this again in a relatively short period of time.”
The chief and band council will meet Thursday night to discuss the situation, and depending on the outcome of that meeting the chief expects to declare a state of emergency.
The community will be asking for additional funding from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. But King doesn't expect to receive a dime until the band council can first produce a number of documents including an audit report for 2011 to 2012.
The problem is that report isn’t complete and the cost will have to be paid for by the band.
“(INAC) said that they wouldn’t be willing to provide us any assistance until they get a financial picture of the community,” he said.
“I was quite appalled that they asked for these requirements considering that there were plenty of complaints lodged against the previous chief and council. (INAC) has an obligation to ensure that members of the community are safe and legal requirements are met under the provisions of the Indian Act.”
Aboriginal Affairs officials say they're meeting with the new band council Friday, and the issues brought up by Chief King will be addressed during that meeting.
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