Fallout is still drifting in the wake of the resignation of Guy Lonechild as chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) on September 1, as the provincial government examines the fiscal source of the deal’s $600,000-plus severance package for him and his staff.
The FSIN, which represents 74 of the province’s 75 Indian bands and is second only to the Assembly of First Nations in aboriginal clout, has been rocked by scandals lately. Its officials are also under fire for the ouster of Kirk Goodtrack, the head of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA), and his subsequent reinstatement by the Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench.
“It took me by surprise that there was an offer on the table, and we felt it was best to part ways,” Lonechild told reporters after a daylong chiefs’ meeting, according to the QMI Agency, but added that he had realized that after months of strife, “if we parted ways mutually, both the FSIN and myself as a person, we would be able to move in a new direction.”
Lonechild’s battle started in February when it was revealed that during his October 2009 campaign he had neglected to disclose an impaired-driving charge that was hanging over his head from a month earlier. He at first claimed that he had not failed to mention it, according to an account in The Globe and Mail.
In March, Lonechild pleaded guilty to the DUI charge, reported the National Post, paying a $1,000 fine and being forbidden to drive for one year.
At first he vowed to serve out the remaining 13 months of his term. But Lonechild and his staff were suspended with pay after an August 4 vote by the FSIN’s Joint Executive Council and Indian Government Commission, pending a no-confidence vote that was scheduled for September 1 at a special legislative assembly, The Globe and Mail reported.
The chief took the FSIN to the Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench, which reinstated him and condemned the planned vote as in violation of the FSIN’s own rules. When he returned to work in late August, Lonechild found himself locked out of the offices. Interim Chief Morley Watson told a radio station that the federation was merely changing the locks that day, according to QMI.
The chiefs held their September 1 meeting anyway, but instead of voting on whether to oust Lonechild, they presented him with the severance package. He took it, resigning immediately, CBC News and other media outlets reported.
According to CBC News, 51 chiefs attended the meeting, which was held on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation. Forty-seven of them approved a resolution containing the buyout package; two chiefs abstained and two voted against it.
The provincial government stayed out of the fray until the severance-package amount sparked an investigation into the source of the funds, according to The Globe and Mail.
“We have concerns,” Mr. Wall told reporters, the newspaper said. “We provide funding to the FSIN as a province, and therefore the taxpayers do, and it’s not meant to go for severance.”
The FSIN said that no provincial funds were used. Lonechild, meanwhile, is job hunting.