Below is an excerpt of some of the questions from community members that were asked during the question & answer session at the 2020 AGM held on Wednesday, December 9th.
Why are members being charged to visit Sikanni ranch?
The Sikanni ranch is a business. We have high operating costs and the business needs to be successful. The cost for members was lowered for rentals of the cabins.
Can Elders have face-to-face meetings with staff?
We cannot have face-to-face meetings at this time due to COVID-19 and we only have our finance and health directors in the office currently. There are more than 113 First Nations communities in British Columbia that are closed right now. We are still following COVID-19 rules and ensuring that we don’t break any protocols, while still serving the community and the off and on reserve members.
How often do you check employee’s criminal record checks?
Anytime we are hiring an employee, one of the requirements is to have a criminal record check done. If there is anything on the criminal record that comes up, it is reviewed. We will be looking at the policy in regards to how often criminal record checks should be done for existing employees.
What are you doing for off-reserve members who are trying to build their lives in larger metropolitan areas?
We currently have 300 members; approximately 100 living on-reserve and 200 living off-reserve. All 300 members of Prophet River First Nation are equally important and we are taking steps to look at additional programs and services that will be accessible to all members.
What happened with the COVID-19 money that was distributed by INAC?
The INAC funding that we received for COVID-19 support was used for emergency response, as directed by the fund. The money was spent on emergency management, including our security gate, the new barriers and other measures that we had to put in place.
What is going on with the Site C settlement?
We have not formally received the funding from the Site C settlement as of the AGM on December 9, 2020. When the money is received, we will set up a community meeting to discuss next steps.
What happened with Tsaa-Dunne & what measures have been put in place to avoid similar situations in the future?
In late August 2018, Council set up the limited partnership Tsaa Dunne in the business of leasing heavy equipment to businesses in the oil and gas sector. The Trust loaned the company $800,000 with monthly payments to help with the initial capital costs. The company ceased operating in the summer of 2019 after a difficult year of losses from bad debts and asset costs. Total losses to PRFN and the Trust will be about $2.7 million. Some of these losses will carry over into our 2020 statements. Since then, we have put tighter financial reporting structure in place including the hiring of a new CAO with an accounting background to avoid repeating a similar situation in the future.
Can members get a monthly update in the newsletter of how many meetings Council members attend and how many they have missed?
Yes. We have plans to move many of our communications and Council meetings online. We will be posting Council minutes online in the members section of our website.
Outside of a monthly newsletter, how are you reaching out and connecting with our community?
We understand there have been some challenges in the past with communications and we are working hard to make sure everyone is connected and we have full transparency. We have contracted City Media, to assist with the communications role for Prophet River First Nation. We are still here working for the community. Our contact information is all available on the website. We can book either telephone or virtual meetings, and we do encourage the members to reach out to us.
What is done when a complaint is received about an employee and what are the consequences?
We are working on a written, clear complaint process. If the issue is not something the member can sit down, by phone or virtually to address with the employee, they can always approach the employee’s supervisor. We do encourage though that complaints come in on a written basis, in order to best address the issue.
Are there any opportunities for members to assist in either administrative ways, helping with proposals, or helping in any way? Could there be a system put in place to post opportunities for members to help in some way, even if they live off reserve?
We are currently examining what the needs are both short-term and long-term in the office. We anticipate that there may be some opportunities for members and there are going to be some more employment opportunities coming up.