Poverty is endemic in Burnt Church, where one out of three people of working age are jobless. John Chilibeck/ Brunswick News

An Indigenous elder who blew the whistle on certain members of her community’s band council says she’s thrilled that federal investigators have come to New Brunswick to scrutinize its finances.

In June, Brunswick News told the story of Joanne Bartibogue, a grandmother in Esgenoôpetitj (Burnt Church First Nation).

She complained that last year, Chief Alvery Paul pulled in a salary and other payments of more than $789,000 while three others on the 12-member council took home six-figure sums, far more than even the premier of New Brunswick earns in salary. The figures became publicly available through a routine audit because Ottawa pays most of the bills.

Meanwhile, her community of 1,240 people near Miramichi remains impoverished.

It was one of several complaints she made.

This week, she said investigators from the assessment and investigation services branch of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada-Indigenous Services Canada would be in her community on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Finally something moving,” she said in an email. “Hope this crisis will be solved for the sake of our members.”

Bartibogue also forwarded an email to Brunswick News from federal officials citing the investigation, scheduled for this week.

“Thank you for keeping the communication open on your concerns for your community,” wrote Chantal Dunn, a certified fraud examiner with the department. “My Director and I will be in the area on August 2nd and August 3rd 2023.”

The federal department, however, would not confirm the information.

“Due to privacy concerns, the Assessment and Investigations Branch along with the Department does not comment on the details of investigations into allegations or complaints,” wrote spokesperson Randy Legault-Rankin.

Premier Blaine Higgs told Brunswick News last month his Progressive Conservative government had raised concerns with Ottawa after he spoke to Bartibogue a couple of times.

Chief Paul told Brunswick News that complaints like the one raised by Bartibogue stem from fights over local politics, similar to the Conservatives or the Liberals slinging verbal mud at each other in the legislature.

By John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 03, 2023 at 13:36

This item reprinted with permission from   The Daily Gleaner   Fredericton, New Brunswick

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