It is with great honor to provide an update on behalf of Council. As Chief and eight Councillors, we pride ourselves on remaining a united team and being transparent with citizens regarding issues relating to our Nation’s governance and operations. The delegated responsibility given to each of us to assure the Nation flows has its opportunities and challenges. One day at a time, decisions are made with in mind the core opportunities today as well as opportunities for our children.
Flood Claim Trust Purchased Land From TLE Trust
In the Summer of 2018, the Cowessess First Nation Flood Claim Trust was exercised with a vote. The vote was for the internal sale of two parcels of land to be sold to the Cowessess First Nation Flood Claim Trust from the Cowessess Treaty Land Entitlement Trust. The 1248 Albert Street property (where mall was situated) and the Yorkton property was approved through vote. Since then, both properties now have a Municipal Service Agreement, are both at the final stages of Addition to Reserve Status with the Federal Government. Because of this internal sale, the First Nation saved money in excluding third party negotiation costs. It also sped up the addition to reserve status process. Once the land reverts to status, economic self-sustainability will begin.
On Wednesdays, we gather at the Hall on Cowessess First Nation to eat and strategically discuss operations for the Nation. It is live streamed for all to listen in. With ten operation departments (Health, Housing, Public Works, Preparation Centre, Justice, Education, Lands, Economic Development, Urban Office, Sports and Recreation) and three Boards (TLE Trustees, Ventures LP, Little Child Community Development), we can talk collectively, share ideas, and strengthen the services and deliverables. The outcome for each engagement session is for transparency, feedback, questions, and building trust within each department with citizens. Each department will present twice a year as well there will be two band meetings per year for governance updates as required in the Cowessess First Nation Constitution.
Cowessess First Nation Governance
Cowessess First Nation is embarking on a Governance System our ancestors once used to govern themselves with contemporary operations and boards built in. Council are elected to be center of our governance (not a colonial top down model) and from the centre, Council focus on Nation building portfolios and delegate and entrust responsibility to experts in Operations and Boards. With Council at the centre, the team is collective and not in silos. The eight Nation Building portfolios are (1) Inherent and Treaty Rights (2) Stewards of the Land (3) Decolonization (4) Citizen Enhancement (5) Community Planning (6) Capital Projects (7) Governance Committee and (8) Finance and Administration Committee. Council collectively focus on each with one Councilor delegated as Chair lead. There are currently three Boards with one Councillor delegated one seat on each (1) TLE Trustees (2) Ventures LP and (3) Little Child Community Development. In the near future, we may have (4) ICFS Board (5) Housing Board and (6) Education Board. This governance structure secures elected Chief and Council as central to the Nation’s Governance with empowering staff, board members, and minimal overlap of duties.
SGEU Union Exiting Cowessess First Nation
In 2015, the Cowessess First Nation Department of Health staff signed to have Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) over see their affairs with their employer Cowessess First Nation. In 2016 when a new election brought in majority new elected officials, a new relationship began with staff. One of the five pillars provided to Council was to Support an Effect Administration Workforce. The relationship with employees has been a pivotal focus for Council and the relationship is getting stronger. In March 2019 the Health Department staff held a vote to exit out of the SGEU and in April 2019, the SGEU exited Cowessess First Nation. The Inherent Right that provincial and federal groups should not be on First Nation’s was identified but the major value lesson learned was respecting the Cowessess First Nation Personal Policy and Procedural Manual which defines the relationship between the employer (Cowessess First Nation) and employees. Cowessess First Nation Council govern the Nation, oversee operations through the Finance and Administration committee and entrust the Executive Director’s office to oversee Operations (no more Councillors with operation portfolios). The relationship between employees and employer are only getting stronger.
- Lands Case
The public court date was April at the Federal Court of Queens Bench in Regina. Justice Honorable Favel has yet to render his decision. The Notice of Application for judicial review was brought forward by Gary W. Pelletier and Gordon D. Lerat. It seeks to review and set aside the Band Council Resolution and related decisions made by Council. This case deals squarely with the challenging of a governance decision to a fully integrated land administration system. Where all lands under administration within the home reserve like those added to the reserve under our Treaty Land Entitlement would be used to benefit citizens as a whole, as compared to just a handful of individuals.
- ATCO Sustainable Inc
This case was inherited from the prior Chief and certain Councillors. In 2015, Cowessess First Nation brought a notice of application for judicial review. The current Council have been providing options in moving past the legal case with ATCO Sustainable Inc. but have not finalized anything yet. Terrence Lavallee and Valarie Tanner signed an agreement to provide Flood Claim Dollars $800,000 to ATCO Sustainable Inc. to build the then Soccer Building. The plan did not fulfill and ATCO Sustainable Inc. stood by the agreement signed and $420,000 remains with ATCO. Cowessess First Nation and ATCO are seeking recommendations to settle outside legal options.
A Notice of Application for judicial review was brought forward by Edward Aisacian. The applicant is asking for insurance money for a prior house which was destroyed by a fire. It is current in front of the courts.
- Phillips Law Firm
The court date for argument was at the Court of Appeals on May 15th. In 2016, Council taxed Phillips Law Firm. The prior Chief and Council used Phillips Law Firm to act on behalf of the Nation. Over 30 months of representing Cowessess First Nation, $920,000 was charged to the Nation. The Judge approved the taxing process to move to assessment stage and Mr. Phillips appealed the decision arguing the Terry Lavallee motion in April 2016 secured Phillips to be unable to question costs from Cowessess First Nation. Justice Cardwel, Justice Ottenbright, and Justice Whitemore have yet to release their decision to the appeal.
Quarterly Budget Report & Prevention Dollars
In March 2019 a budget of $16,453,636 was passed by Council. As of July, the budget is being implemented and respected.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s 2016 decision and subsequent rulings ordered the Government of Canada to fund First Nations Child and Family Services based on the principles of substantive equality, respect for children’s best interests, needs, culture and language and to respect distinctive for First Nations children. Retraining these dollars are application based. I provide you assurance the Nation has applied for what we rightfully was not provided and will continue to advocate for these dollars.
Children In Care
On June 21st, an Act representing First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children, youth and families received Royal Assent. Cowessess First Nation will continue to assert our rights to our children and the growth of each of them. Cowessess First Nation will be exercising Bill C92. Cowessess First Nation Constitution asserts our rights to create and implement our own legislation laws. The Act provides confirmation the Inherent Right of Cowessess First Nation to enact laws in relation to child and family services and further affirms that such Inherent Rights are protected under Section 35 of the Canada Constitution Act. In the coming months, Cowessess First Nation will begin creating legal framework, governance and administration framework, and funding models. Council will be calling upon citizens for feedback in creating a new approach to assuring our children in care and children in home fires requiring more resources to assure children become believes and not survivors. Also working with home fires as we know our history has inter generational trauma and we are here to help one another.
The Girls home on Cowessess First Nation is 80% complete. The home will provide up to ten youth a place to call home with a safe environment filled with love, respect, and empowerment. There has been some challenges with the difference between transition home care and permanent care within YTC ICFS guidelines. Ongoing discussion is happening.
In March 2019, Cowessess First Nation Health Department received Accreditation. This was no easy task, lead by Director of Health Angie Tanner and an amazing team passed assessments in policies, deliverables, safe and professional work environment, developing a sustaining health culture, patient safety plan, and comprehensive quality improvement framework. With this accreditation, the Health Department has more flexibility to create more services with funding being more flexible. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL HEALTH STAFF. The next steps are to custom services to better fit Cowessess First Nation and to work towards more accreditations.
Cowessess First Nation Community Grave Site
In May 2019, the Roman Catholic Church provided Cowessess First Nation with $70,000 to revamp the Cowessess First Nation Community Grave Site. Along with the money, an additional $40,000 is provided to have yearly gatherings to help with addressing healing solutions to citizens whom attended the Marieval Residential School and the Roman Catholic Church agreed to revert the land back to Cowessess First Nation. The land where Marieval Church and Hall is was surrendered in 1912 and it will now be reverted back to Cowessess First Nation. A call out to five community members to the committee will help in the planning and implementation will be posted soon.
Water Treatment Plant Upgrade
Key to good health is clean, quality water. The Cowessess Water Treatment Plant has been receiving investments to assure the best quality water is provided. Installed in Spring of 2019, technology is based on libelium’s Plug and Sense! Smart Water Xtreme with sensors to measure water depth and chemistry elements. That data is sent by 4G to communicate directly to Staff supervisors. A significant historical project.
In June 2019, the Water Treatment Plant has a new reverse osmosis bottle fill station. Sapphire water installed a new bottle filling system to replace the old unit. The new system uses one membrane to achieve optimum filtration. With instilling the new system, water will be at its purest form free of contaminants.
In June 2019, Cowessess First Nation was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Government of Canada to implement a Housing Authority. The current system has identified trust issues, confusion in deliverables, understaffing with overwhelming reporting, political interference and the years of deficit the First Nation continues to have. With the opportunity to create a housing system based on a trust relationship with the 220 homes, the Housing Department, and the Governance is the goal. In the coming months, a questionnaire for better understanding will be available, sessions for better understanding the true cost of housing, and more.
The oversight committee will be the first judicial system within Cowessess First Nation in many years. When disputes happen (which is a healthy thing with good governance), we have a dispute mechanism internally. Examples include Cowessess First Nation Constitution, Policies, and Bylaw challenges, laws not written which effect the Nation’s affairs, and more. This committee will be empowered to review, seek legal advise, and provide direction. A few weeks back, a call out to committee members was posted and final stages of implementing a committee is in process.
On behalf of Council, I want to thank the administration staff and all who play a part in making our Nation better one day at a time. We will continue to grow Cowessess First Nation to be an economic player in the economy as well strengthen our identity as citizens of Cowessess First Nation. May the Christmas holidays be filled with food, laughter, and love.
Chief, Cowessess First Nation