Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Sagkeeng Scandal Story

Yes it is a self serving piece. 
I admit I do want to be thought of in a good light even with all the bad I have done. It's ego I guess? 
Written several years ago, while I was in midst of a mental breakdown. 
Not sure how I feel today about the whole situation. Although I talk about honesty I know I was not honest in
writing this piece. I try to rationalize my behaviour and to down play the ugliness of the people involved. 
I was no good. Trying to make amends in ways that I do have control over. 
The story has been out there for many years. I have made my peace with some of those involved and hopefully 
they have also made peace with me. 
In any case, we can't change the past, the is fundamental truth. We can try and make sure we live a better 
The following narrative is an unfinished piece of writing that is aimed a very narrow audience. 
It outlines the story of Sagkeeng First Nation and the “cruise scandal”. The intended audience of the narrative
is close family members, a few community members and ex-employees of the Sagkeeng Treatment Centre. 
The story is in draft form and the errors, such as sentence structure, have not yet been corrected.  I thought
it a good piece to see a bit of my writing process as well as the opportunity to get to know a little of my 
character and background by reading this piece of writing. 
In the narrative I leave out a lot of background as it is understood that most people in the community are
aware of the surrounding events and the names of the local people involved. Had I written for a larger 
audience I would have taken the time to explain the background and to identify the people mentioned in 
the story. Without the introduction of people the story is difficult to follow. 
Aide Memoire

Private & Confidential

-this document is not intended for distribution-

What’s this:  You know, I thought what if I was to die suddenly? No one would know the story about the Sagkeeng Solvent Abuse Centre scandal and what had happened over there. Well if you are reading this, then you know I thought of you as a person that I would like to know what happened in the Sagkeeng Treatment Centre mediascandal. Of course what you will be reading will have my own personal bias about the situation, but if you look past that and read with a critical eye perhaps you will see something different than what transpired in the media. By writing in the first person, I am at risk for self-aggrandizing in this story.  This will be a narrative rather than an academic exercise.  I will try to keep out profanity for reading sake but will occasionally use the odd contraction, run-off sentence and will narrate in a casual manner; after all, I am telling you a story.  If I get try to get too sanctimonious in my telling of the story I will slap myself in the back of the head (thereby saving you the trouble). Keeping with Traditions of our people past, I am telling this story in the months of winter ;-). One thing about writing casually rather than formally, I risk losing credibility.  For some reason, we tend to look at the formal statement as being the one of authority or authentic and so the casual voice loses its validity. However, this is not for the wider audience and I cannot change what they think but they don’t know me. 

The purpose of this narrative is to flush out my thoughts as to what took place at the treatment centre.  I believe that the rise and fall of Sagkeeng has more to do with Sagkeeng being a torn in the side of government rather than being strictly the result of administrative mismanagement and financial wrongdoings.

 Much of the events that transpired between us and the government can actually be verified by letters we had written to the government, their own internal government memos, and some media archives.  I am going to assume that you are aware of the various programs administered by Health Canada and I will most likely fail to explain some of them.  It is important that you understand a least a little about Non-insured Health Benefits, specific programs and policy of the Canadian government, to grasp the overall consequences and possibilities that have arisen due to the “Sagkeeng Scandal”.  Some of the narrative is rather boring and not as juicy as you would expect, but it is necessary for you to hear everything.  Just another warning, I may ramble off so please be patient in your reading of this story.

In the Seven Teachings there is the notion of Truth and Honesty.  It is beyond me as to what each really means and how they are not interchangeable.  However, this is what I think some of that Teaching may include.  The Truth is unchangeable.  It is the way things are. The Sun rises and the Sun sets and that is the truth.  Man and Woman joined, create life that is Truth.  You live and than you die.   In Honesty, it is not necessarily how things are. So I may be telling you Honestly what I think is the Truth, but it may not be the case.  Honest is a perception of things.  In this story I will tell you honestly the events as I saw them and what I think took place.  Someone else may have seen things differently and they may be right.  It’s not that I am not telling the Truth, but that I am telling you honestly what I believe to be true.  Of course I am not going to tell you that I think of myself as an honest person.  I think that is a rare and extraordinary characteristic, to be able to call yourself honest or someone you know honest. 

I am not sure if I can struggle through with being honest.  In doing that, I have to admit to being wrong in a lot of things I have done and the choices I made. But not only that I have to discuss how I felt at the time of certain activities.  In addition what I say will most likely not be flattering to a number of people.  People will not like it. I will try not to skirt around an issue, but that may be hard to do. It is not my intent to bring out old wounds and start new ones. 

Have you ever looked through a scope of a rifle?  Do you see clearly the object of what you are looking at?  Yes, you do.  However, you fail to see the surroundings of the object.  You may be thinking it’s clear to shoot at that deer in your sights, but maybe you don’t see the other hunter beyond the deer, or maybe there is a farm house in the background.  So you take look with your other eye to ensure things are as they should be.  You want to make sure that there are no unseen people/animals or property that may get damaged in your shot.  That’s what happened in the media shot of the Sagkeeng story.  Everyone looked at the one incident and did not look around to see what was out there.  Everyone looked through a narrow field of vision.  The results were very damaging when the shot was taken.  A whole community was injured in the media shot of the Treatment Centre.  People didn’t look beyond the target/object.  There was a whole lot more to the Treatment Centre story than just the one incident, the scandal.  In addition we tend to look at things that agree to our perceptions.  It was easy to look at the Sagkeeng Alcare as one of corruption. After-all you had a director that was not admired in the community.  He was looked at as rude, mean spirited and a braggart living beyond the means of the community.  People were fuelled to jump on his demise. 

What would you say if I told you that Sagkeeng is responsible for saving the Canadian government; the taxpayer, hundreds of millions of dollars?  Hyperbole and utterly bullshit, right?  I can tell you that I honestly believe that the Sagkeeng Treatment Centre saved Canada millions of dollars through saved money in treatment expenditures from Non-insured Benefits. In addition to that, Sagkeeng was also responsible for the government providing funding of six treatment centres to the Aboriginal community in Canada.  (See how truth and honesty intersect?)  With all the media attention and the court cases clearly setting out that the management of Sagkeeng Treatment Centre was corrupt, how can my statements be true?  With corruption convictions of two senior government bureaucrats, how can it be so?  I don’t want to jump ahead and give you the answers just yet.  Unlike the media snapshot of events, I feel that you must be able to see the whole picture in order to make a judgement of what is true or not.  Now that I have put up the qualifiers to possible mistakes in this little story, let’s start the Sagkeeng journey.  Some of the dates maybe a little off, but memory does that.  Try not to let the odd error in time distract you from the overall validity of this narrative.

Tidbits & Ramblings:  I am not sure what year the Sagkeeng Alcare Centre was opened. Initially it was a Band program funded by through Health Canada.   The Sagkeeng Alcare was incorporated due to financial problems at the Band level in an effort to save the program.  All programs of the Band were reverting back to Indian Affairs. Creditors were taking dollars from the Band, the Band was bankrupt and all programs were losing their monies.  This might have taken place in the late 70’s or early 80’s.  The Alcare was developed under a government pilot project: NAAP – Native Alcohol Abuse Program.  Through some changes in policy and commitment to funding the program has now evolved to NNAADAP: National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program.  It was funded through the Health Ministry, Medical Services Branch now known as FNIHB: First Nations Inuit Health Branch. Each region has a certain amount of dollars allocated to programs.  NNAADAP has both treatment centre and prevention programs with some training dollars as well.  Each community is provided a certain amount of dollars to administer that program.  The administration of the programs is set out in a contribution agreement (CA).  These contribution agreements are signed between the government of Canada and the community or the legal entity of the community involved.  The contribution agreements generally set out what the money is to be spent on, like salaries, operations, maintenance, training and in some rare cases capital. Capital is usually a separate agreement altogether.  You’re not allowed to buy capital items from your CA and if you do the government will take it back.  The CA also spells out the how and what activities are going to be, like treatment beds or prevention programs; working in the courts, schools, community, etcetera. For giving the money to the Aboriginal community, the government must in turn get something in return, that is why a CA is signed.  Setting out what it gets for the money provided and by agreeing to provide expenditure reports. This way the government knows what the money is spent on in the way it dictated in the CA.  Another way government provides money is by way of contract.  The contract is not exactly like a CA in that it purchases a good or service.  How the money is spent is not the concern, but rather the product/good/service in return is the key ingredient.  As long as the service or the good is provided than government is satisfied.  Generally the government does not use the contract system with the Aboriginal community.  It uses the contract for accessing services from the non-Native community/mainstream community.  Of course we had no knowledge of how contracts worked in government because we were always under CA.  Our knowledge of contracts and even if they existed were nil. Another funding instrument that government came up was a Transfer Agreement (TA).  It was basically a CA only longer in duration and with some more leeway for the Bands or Native entities. The TA always the Band to have a longer agreement for monies, but the control is still ultimately with the government. The government off-loads the responsibility and fiduciary to the Band.  Important note, Jerome Berthlette (when he was stationed in Ottawa) wrote to letter to AFN Ovide Mercerdi stating that a TA hands over more than financial responsibility for programming, but also hands off fiduciary responsibility.

That responsibility factor of the government is what keeps them up at night.  “How do we off-load the responsibility but yet keep a tight rein?” This is the question that government struggled with. In fact it came back to bite them in the form of a law suite by the CHR’s (community health representatives). Long story made short, the government did not want the responsibility that came with being an employer (to the CHR’s). That responsibility included paying them at a reasonably rate.  The CHR’s maintained that the government was in fact their employer and therefore had a responsibility to treat them accordingly.  The CHR’s won their lawsuit.  So the government didn’t like that and has tried to find a formula to get rid of the responsibility but yet maintain control.  I mention this in passing because it is important to understand a bit of the mindset that drives the bureaucrat, and the government when dealing with Indians.  

The government also utilizes the pool of money referred to as Non-insured Health Benefits.  This is where the government pays for status Indians health items related to the ‘medicine chest’.  Indians maintain it as a Right while government states it is a policy.  Regardless, this is the pool of dollars used to cover prescriptions, dental, eye wear, travel, and treatment programs (other than NNAADAP funded programs, i.e. non Native programs).  This is a very interesting area and one where every Indian should take note and beware of.  But the thing is that no one really knows what non-insured covers.  It changes without notice or even knowledge by the average Indian.  With something as important as Treaty health, you would think we would know more or be made aware of the changes to the list of coverage with non-insured benefits.  The only notice we take is when we go to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled and find out that the order is not covered.  Or when we go to the dentist and find out that we can only have two root canals in five years. The amount of items covered in non-insured is being lowered every year (or few years) without any notice to us or to our leaders (maybe the leaders are told but who knows). Further into the story you will see how this is important and how it is relevant to the Sagkeeng scandal.

The Players:  Paul Cochrane – was Regional Director (RD) for Medical Services Branch in Manitoba and went on to be the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) for Health Canada. Aline Dirks – executive assistant to the ADM Paul Cochrane. Jerome Berthlette – unknown position for Health Canada Ottawa office prior to becoming RD for Manitoba region. Marie Fortier – unknown position with Health Canada.  David Dodge – Deputy Minister of Health Canada.  Nick Hassik – Director NAADAP Ottawa.   Patrick Nothingham – Direct of Community Based Projects with MSB in Manitoba.  Mike Degagne – unknown position with Health Canada.  Richard Jock – Director General with Health Canada; took leave to work as Health Advisor for Assembly of First Nations.   Dr. Judith Berthelette – Regional Director MSB Manitoba.  Pasqual Bighetty- Associate Regional Director Manitoba Region.  Keith Cale – Acting Regional Director MSB Manitoba region.  Larry McCafferty – Regional Director MSB Manitoba region.  Dr Larry Richards – Director of Non-Insured Health Benefits Manitoba Region; later moved to Ontario region.  Daryl Cote – The Director of Anishinabe Mino Ayawin (AMA). Paul Glover - Associate Regional Director Ontario. Richard Legaue – Regional Director MSB Manitoba. Marie Fortier – Assistant Deputy Minister Health Canada.  Jean Chr├ętien - Prime Minister Canada.

History:  In 1989, I attended a conference for solvent abuse in Thompson.  It was put on by MSB (Medical Services Branch) and hosted by MKO (Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin, they have since added the Ininew).  Jennie Wastasecoot was the head of Solvent Abuse Prevention program for MKO at the time.  MSB representatives from Manitoba region and Ottawa region were speaking at the conference.  At the time the MKO budget provided by MSB was approximately $400,000 for solvent abuse prevention programs in the north.  The MSB message was simply; “no more capital dollars, no more Treatment centres, concentrate on prevention”.  There were a number of representatives from Northern reserves and NNAADAP workers from all over Manitoba at the conference.  After MSB made the presentation, the participants were asked to break into groups and work on prevention strategies for communities.  I was in a group of Council members from Moose Lake and other NNAADAP workers.  Hughie Pierre from Roseau River was in that group.  In this group we were very talkative about strategies.  But it was clear at the group work that Treatment Centres were wanted by some of the Northern reserves.  One of the Council member’s of Moose Lake asked how much we (Hughie and I) would charge to do a proposal for a treatment centre.  I told them that MSB had just told the conference attendees that there was no new money for capital, treatment centres.  At the break Hughie said he would consider it and not charge them very much. From there I don’t know what happened.  But it was clear that despite what MSB was saying, the community was looking for a treatment program and people were willing to work at it. Patrick Nottingham was present at this conference.  I remember the conference and Patrick as I got a toothache and went back to Winnipeg for a root canal.  I remember him because it was the second time I had seen this person and I mention it because he had become forefront in the media when the scandal came out.  I also remember him as I thought it would be good for the Alcare Centre if we got to know this person at the time, he did seem approachable. 

The conference was an eye opener.  The power of MSB was all-encompassing and the amount of reliance on government by Indians was ever prevalent.  No more treatment centres as far as MSB was concerned but yet there was a need for the centres.  There were whole families involved in sniffing parties.  It was revealed that most of the people were young kids and had no where to go for treatment.  Lot of youth ended up in the system, CFS and the Justice. The Northern communities were told to work on prevention programs with approximately four hundred and fifty thousand for the whole area.  NNAADAP workers already had their resources stretched to the limit working with an adult population.  There didn’t look like there were any real alternatives for the workers and for the kids that were sniffing.

In the past the Sagkeeng Alcare Centre had taken young adults for solvent abuse because there were no other places available.  I remember this one young guy from Bloodvein at the Centre.   In 1981 he was admitted for treatment at the Alcare Centre.  In hindsight I know the treatment centre at the time was not the place for him.  I don’t know if he got any benefit from the treatment program. I would think others in the community remember him as he left the program and wondered around the reserve for a while, wearing his jacket like a cape.  In any case, but it didn’t seem that accepted practices of alcohol treatment programming was right for him.  There seemed to be a lot of ‘dumping’ of people in the treatment centre by various agencies.  It was like the Centre was a catch all program or perhaps a holding place for people with no alternatives.  A lot of people came from the justice system. Some of these people needed a more sophisticated place for them other than an Alcohol abuse program.  When I say sophisticated, I mean specialized and I am referring to mental health agencies, other medical or judicial placements. 

After the conference I talked to a number of staff at the Sagkeeng Alcare Centre about this situation.  I spoke to Norma Daniels, Wendy Fontaine, Fabian Morrisseau, Brian Smith, William Courchene, about the idea of following this up and if they thought that Perry would agree to it.  There was a staff meeting and I presented the idea to Perry Fontaine.  Not everyone agreed that the solvent abuse treatment idea was worthwhile pursuing.  Perry was non-committal and indifferent about the idea, but said to go ahead and take a look at it.  Brian Smith took a lead at looking at what could be done.  We needed guidance so we spoke to Elders Fabian Morrisseau, George Matthew Courchene and later on invited Earl Duncan of AFM to come down and discuss the issue with us.  Fabian and George stated that the only way treatment of solvent abuse was to be effective, was to make it a Native spiritual approach.  They felt that the program should transcend the contemporary view of just looking at abstinence and cognitive therapy.  They knew that the whole being was needed to be dealt with.  Working with the Spirit of the youth was needed.  They also discussed appropriate age level for the program.  Earl Duncan in a later meeting re-enforced this direction. At this point we had no idea if it was even worthwhile or even who we were going to service. How were we going to fund this project and where were going to find a place to house people. Would AFM (Alcohol Foundation of Manitoba ) or CFS fund a program or perhaps Corrections Canada?  Would MSB pay for treatment?  All of these questions and many more faced the group.  At this point the research and information seeking process started.  Lot of work went into starting up the solvent treatment program for boys and girls.  We didn’t know what the heck we were going to do. So we went out and got information.  We talked to various people and agencies in the treatment area for children.  By this time Perry and Norma were looking at ways to get the program funded.  We looked at what was being done in the solvent abuse treatment field in Canada and the US.  We saw things like protein therapy and amino acid therapy; as well there were just longer versions of alcohol treatment programs for youth.  We followed recommendations found in the Susche Report.  It was a provincial report on children in care.  The report had numerous recommendations on children in care that we tried to incorporate into the setup of our program.  While we researching and looking for information on the effects of solvent abuse, we found reports that recovery was slow for chronic abusers.  There was not that much information, but what we found, was not very assuring or promising.  Much of the information, both written and anecdotal didn’t see a good recovery rate for sniffers-solvent abusers.  The outlook for treatment on solvent abusers was not very positive or optimistic.  However we tried to look at every place we could for advice on the program content, the physical layout, possible activities for the patients and administrative guidelines for management.  We were able to get policy and procedures manuals from other centres like the Sunshine Treatment Centre in Arizona.  Brian Smith designed space that fit provincial guidelines in a wing of the Alcare centre.  With guidance from the Traditional people, Brian worked at what a treatment plan would entail for the solvent program.  A lot of work and time went into the design and start up of the youth solvent program.

Woops, I got to stop myself right here. I’m starting to spout rhetoric.   I am telling you what I think is true, but it’s coming off as some saintly endeavour, when that is not really the case.  What we saw was opportunity.  The main point I wanted you to understand in this history section, is that it took a lot of people and a lot of hard work to get the solvent program moving.  We also asked a lot of questions, sought help from people who we thought had insight and were Traditional; essentially trial and error searching. In addition the solvent program wasn’t given to us by government. We didn’t stand around with our hands out waiting or asking the government for a program.  It also took some mistakes and some accidental findings to get into the solvent abuse treatment industry.  As a matter of fact, MSB actually tried a number of things to stop the program from succeeding, which I will talk about later on in the story. It took a lot of fighting by the management of the programs, and pushing by Perry at the government level to make sure it didn’t die before it even got going. A lot of the work to get the program going was done by underlings and support staff.

Remember that it was implied, stated, and thought of by the media and the general public that Sagkeeng was given this program in exchange for money.  Sagkeeng thought about, sought out what was required and worked towards the start of the program.  No MSB person came and said to us, “here, this is for you!”  No Indian agency even came out to support Sagkeeng at the time. It was task to even get our own Chief and Council to support. That is just one example of the many misconceptions and misrepresentations about Sagkeeng in the media.  I won’t point all the inconsistencies about what took place in the media, but you should be able to see them as the story progresses. 

Funding and start-up: We had no idea where the funding was going to come from when we started moving ahead with the solvent program.  We didn’t know anything about non-insured health benefits at the time (nor were we told).  We knew the kids were getting into the system in a lot of places, like the courts, and CFS.  So we thought perhaps that we would look for funding in those areas.  We even thought of the province with AFM.  Earl Duncan was a very good man and he was the Aboriginal worker there.  Like many Indians in non-Native organizations, Earl didn’t have any real power.  However, he tried to help. We got information for the Karen Susche Report on children in care and decided that CFS could be a source of funding.  They were funding children in different group homes and different rates.   This is where we got the idea of a rate for bed fee.  I don’t remember how, but the number $127 per bed per day is something that was discussed.  Maybe Norma figured it out or Brian, but I can’t be sure.

We started to knock on doors with various agencies, government people to find out where we could find money.  It’s all about money, isn’t it?  I will skip a lot of stuff, as I don’t remember the exact sequence of events or what lead us to who or what.  I remember we met a very nice gentleman named Dr. Larry Richards.  He came to be a great source of information and help.  He worked for MSB and was stationed in Manitoba, but he later went to Ontario.  We continued to work with him out there.  He wasn’t truthful in the beginning, as he didn’t let on about non-insured health benefits used as a funding source in the non-Native treatment field.  With MSB, we had lot of meetings that seemed to go nowhere.  But we pressed on and met a lot of other people.  In one meeting we met some dead sticks, like Dr. Judith Berthelette, Pasqual Bighetty, and Keith Cale. These people were absolutely and utterly useless in providing information and follow-up to our meetings.  In one meeting Dr. Berthelette was given instructions by the RD to assist us in anyway possible.  That was laughable.  We never heard from her or got any useful information from her. Larry McCafferty was Regional Director (RD) at the time. He was non-committal to anything, but he never blocked anything either.  So in a sense he was good.  Patrick Nottingham was also helpful in trying to get us some training dollars for staff.  We never did get any help for the renovations to the Alcare in order to meet provincial guidelines for children in care.  We had used provincial guidelines as we could not find any federal guidelines. Oh yes, that was another obstacle we had to overcome, the argument from government officials about jurisdiction, federal versus provincial. 

Larry MacCafferty changed regions and left Manitoba.  Keith Cale was acting RD and Pasqual Bighetty was Associate RD (whatever the heck that is).  About this time we were getting to know a little bit about the system.  We knew about the ‘contracts’ for non-Native treatment centres.  Mr Cale in one meeting explained the CA and contract system.  I remember it well.  He said CA’s were for Indians and contracts were for non-Natives.  He went on to touch his breast pocket and say, he could tell you where money is going when it comes to Indians and contracts.  Of course we wrote letters in response to this statement.  Dr Berthelette was in that meeting as well.  In response to our complaints, we met with ARD, Pasqual Bighetty.  Cale denied making the statements and said he doesn’t even wear a vest.  There was type O in the letter and it was written vest instead of breast.  (Funny how you remember things?)  I don’t remember what the end result of the meeting or of the letters, but nothing else was made of the incident after the meeting. 

We sought the same treatment for us from MSB as they would deal with any non-Native treatment centre.  I met with Dr Richards to discuss contracts in a fee for bed service. We were wise to the notion of fee for service and contracts by then.  We weren’t really clear on the non-insured funding at this stage.   Dr Richards did not have any contracts available and didn’t have one for us to sign.  We found that in many, if not all, there were NO contracts in place for non-Native treatment centres.  Essentially the centres would bill and the government would pay for the service. Interesting  or wild isn’t it?  The first contract drawn up between MSB Manitoba region and Sagkeeng was actually made up by me.  I put in what services that MSB would receive in return for buying a bed.  MSB could not show us sample contract as a template because there were none!  The question you should be asking if there were no written contracts, then how were the non-Native centres being paid?  MSB paid without questioning the referrals of Aboriginal youth and adults to non-Native treatment centres. MSB paid through the Non-Insured Benefit pool of money.  It did not seem that MSB was worried or concerned about the dollar amount the beds were costing at the time for non-Native centres.  In our case the Solvent Centre came up with the number of $200 per bed.  I am not sure where that number came from. But I think Norma and Perry developed a formula based on operating costs, salaries, and capital costs (but I am just guessing). In any case, MSB would buy a bed for an Indian youth for $200 per day from Sagkeeng.  I think we had about 20 beds at that time.  It didn’t happen right away though. MSB was not willing to go into a contract with us.  We had a number of meetings trying to find out what the process for accessing payment was.  We were still not clear on the non-insured health benefit thing.  But it was significant as it was the notion of us accessing non-insured that had the government acting crazy over our starting a treatment program.  At the same time we were still trying to find out how to work with CFS and get them to buy beds as well.  By this time we were telling the government, “just treat us like any non-Native centre”.  It was clear at this time that the program would be run as a business; providing services and making money at the same time. 

By this time we were getting to know Patrick pretty well. We found out he was married to an Indian woman from WhiteDog.  I remember meeting with Mable Mandamin, she was sister-in-law to Patrick and she worked for CFS in Ontario.  She was a social worker for Wiijiidiwin, a Native child care agency based in Kenora.  They were looking for places for their kids to go for treatment.  There were not very many options for anyone at the time.  She was excited to see something happen in the Solvent Abuse treatment field.  The community was dealing with that issue for some time.  I know that the WhiteDog Reserve, years later, had started a program for solvent abusers.  It was run by the Old Man there, Mr Mandamin, a Traditional Elder.  These people became very important to the Solvent abuse centre in Sagkeeng. We were to get referrals for kids in treatment from these people.  A very good relationship and friendships were formed.  At some point one of the family members was hired. Reciprocity is what it’s all about.  They were good to us, so we should have been good to them.  The mother of the family Mrs Josephine Mandamin was strong and helped provide support in the Ontario region when the program needed it.  It was going to be very important relationship for Sagkeeng as the government tried to put the stops on the Solvent program and the people of WhiteDog, particularly the Mandamins, helped ensure the success of Sagkeeng. The referrals of youth from the Mandamins is what kept the Centre open in the beginning and what made it strong.

I have contacted Patrick since writing this story and he still maintains that it was all Perry’s fault.  In my opinion Patrick is not being honest with people and himself.  He does not take any responsibility for his actions. He used his wife’s name, his own government position for financial reward. I feel for his wife and their family but Patrick is the cause of their woes.

Up and running: The first person hired for the new solvent program was the director.  I have to admit that I thought I would be considered for the position, but I wasn’t considered.  Ken Courchene was hired as the director (wasn’t called CEO at that time :-0 ).  I was opposed to his hiring.  I thought that the program was just starting and needed someone who would work hard at getting things done and a lot of energy would be required.  My thinking at the time was that he was an  ex-Chief and was used to getting things done for him.  Upon his been hired, Ken and I went for a ride to Pine Falls and it was during this ride that I expressed my concerns about him.  He told me that he had worked in “the trenches” and knew what was required to do the job.  I think I also had a personal dislike for Ken at this time.  I told him that I didn’t think he was respectful. “I don’t like people who don’t respect my Dad”.  He told me he had the highest respect for my Dad and that he showed it by giving him tobacco.  I thought what a bunch of bull. I know the sacredness of Tobacco and the significance of passing it, but doubted that Ken knew the spirit of respect or was just not being ‘honest’ about his treatment of my Dad. I told him that he had no respect for my Dad. Ken, while Chief and my Dad was in council, would phone Dad and say he will be by to pick Dad up for a Council trip to Winnipeg.  Ken would drive by and go pick up Davey Junior instead.  Meanwhile the Old Man is waiting all day for the Chief to come by.  So Ken’s idea of respect and his actions contradicted each other.  In my view not a very good thing to do and quite phoney.  But hey, who the heck was I to judge him.  I just saw him saying one thing and doing another.  It is not my intent to villanize anyone here, but I am not without bias and will inadvertently or on purpose put forth my skew of people throughout this narrative.  Ken ended up resigning and left the program for a period of time.  After he left, Elmer Courchene was hired as director.  He was a very gentle man that was kind to the staff. 

Since the solvent abuse program was setup and admitting clients (Native youth) you would think that the government would be happy.  The government knew there was a need but there was no capital for new treatment centres and here Sagkeeng solved that problem.  But for the government that wasn’t the case.  A solvent program and a Native run one, in the south, was a sore spot for the government.  We didn’t know it at the time, but we opened up a can of worms for the government which (later down the road) they would work hard at closing.   You will see why this caused problems for the government.

The solvent program was set up as a separate legal entity.  Initially incorporated as Apinonche.  Later it was incorporated as the Sagkeeng Solvent Treatment Centre.  Separate from the Sagkeeng Alcare Centre. It was setup to provide a service and charge fees for that service.  There was no contribution agreement in place between MSB and Sagkeeng Solvent Treatment Centre.  The solvent program was set up to mimic what the non-Native sector was doing. 

Prior to Sagkeeng Solvent Treatment Centre, the youth were in the system but not getting any treatment.  There were all sorts of alcohol treatment centres, both in the Native community and non-Native community.  There were no real facilities strictly for clients suffering from solvent abuse.  One of the key items that research recommended for solvent abusers was time.  Abstinence from solvent for an extended period of time was key to their rehabilitation.  Many of the programs were set up for 28 days and for adults that were alcohol and drug abusers.  The solvent program was set up to be a long term care facility for Aboriginal youth. 

When we started to admit clients (I will use the term clients for the youth that entered the program) it was on a fee for service. This means that if someone was in the bed, we charged for it.  We charged $200 a day.  For that fee, a service was provided, meals, shelter, clothing, and treatment.  If no one was in the centre than no one paid.  This was a system that had been in place and is still in place for many non-Native treatment centres.  The idea of a fee for service was not well received by the government. You have to understand that they are not used to dealing with Indians in this manner.  The government is used to administering program dollars through contribution agreements.  Everything is spelled out on where and what the dollars should be spent on.  But on a fee for service arrangement the control for government over the Indian is not there. 

The government was not sure of what to do with Sagkeeng.  So they made attempts to stop the solvent program before it got going.  Initially there was the no money ploy and the then the jurisdiction aspect of who was responsible and where funding should come from and if there should be a license.  The no money ploy will always play out in the Indian community with government. The government will assert no money or will delay transfers and payments, effectively choking the entity to the point that it can no longer function. The jurisdiction ploy is another tactic to stall a community or entity from moving forward, putting actions into limbo and thereby curbing any momentum. When these tactics failed to sway Sagkeeng into closing down the government went onto other tactics.

The first thing the government did was to deny that there were contracts available and the pool of money where those contracts are paid. We saw this with the unwillingness to share a contract template with us.  In reality they didn’t have any contract templates as they just paid non-Native centres without even written contracts.  They just had a policy of acceptance.  A referral was made by a Doctor, or agent in the field and the government paid for treatment. How do we know this?  Well, I wrote up the first contract with MSB and the fee for service agreement.  In the contract, it was written up what the government would get for its money and what the cost would be; simple as that. 

The second thing that government did was to change the rules of referrals.  They did it in several steps.  They changed who could refer a client for treatment.  At first it was an agent in the field, like a nurse, CFS worker or NNAADAP worker.  But they changed it to only Doctor referrals.  We did that, we got Doctor referrals prior to clients being admitted for treatment.  We had the agent, refer the youth to a Doctor with a recommendation for Solvent Abuse treatment.  The Doctor would refer for treatment after making an assessment.  The government wanted clinical assessments of the youth to see if they were in fact suffering from solvent abuse.  This was another step in the system for referral treatment.  The reason for this step is to ensure that the youth who were taking the program were actually suffering from inhalant/solvent abuse.  And to have the program go through more processes before a youth could enter the program or once the youth was in the program, have them accessed to see if they should stay there.  Although the intent wasn’t there by the government, it was a good practice as it was found that some of the youth needed a more specialized environment. The intent was to make it difficult for Sagkeeng to accept clients and for agents in the field (NAADAP workers, CHR’s, Nurses) to refer youth for treatment.

The third attempt was to restrict movement of the youth.  Youth could not be referred from out of province. They could only be sent to treatment programs that were located in the same province that they live in.  The only time they could go out of province was if there were no treatment beds available.  This would be if all the beds for youth treatment (and adult treatment) were occupied. It was the intent to starve the program of clients.  The northern communities were upset with a program being set up in the south.  They had felt that the government provided the Centre to Sagkeeng, which was not the case. The result was a reluctance to send youth to Sagkeeng from the north. 

All these events were done over a period of time.  There were also shock waves in the system when these changes were being made.  You have to remember these changes were taking place in order to stop or prevent Sagkeeng from going forward with the treatment program.  Non-native treatment programs were being affected as well.  The new changes affected all the treatment programs that were on a fee-for-service basis.  The non-Native centres had to adapt just as Sagkeeng was forced to.  Sagkeeng had a harder time as they were new to the system and still did not know what the non-insured billing system was. 

Sagkeeng adapted to the changes, but required the help of Wabsimong (WhiteDog) and the Mandamins.  It was Josephine Mandamin, and Issac Mandamin that lobbied for Sagkeeng to continue receiving youth from Ontario.  The rules made it harder to get youth approved for treatment. The thing was that there were really no beds available for youth suffering from solvent abuse available in Ontario.  Many of the programs were either out of country (United States) or were geared towards adults.  A number of the northern bands were also starting to refer youth to Sagkeeng.  At the time Sagkeeng had 20 beds.

In the early stages and years of the program, there were changes to the operation.  Both girls and boys were being accepted. A school program was being offered with an accredited teacher.  Ken Courchene had resigned for a period of time.  Elmer Courchene was hired as the new Director.  Elmer was a very kind gentleman, with a soft heart for the staff and youth.  His style of management did not coincide with the Chairperson Perry Fontaine, of the program.  So Elmer was removed from his position after a time.  Perry had a business attitude and did not share Elmer’s (and the two other Board member’s) views of caring for the clients.  I’m not saying Perry didn’t care but his focus was really on the bottom line, like any business manager would focus on, making money.  In addition Perry was very greedy, so he watched the money like a hawk watching mice. Elmer and the two other board members were not interested in that aspect of sweating labour assets or maximizing profit. 

Before Elmer left as Director, he had arranged a purchase of renovated trailers for the expansion of the program.  Elmer was Old Style, where your word is worth something.  He made a purchase of 8 trailers from B & B rental for $250,000.  A huge sum of money with no contract for the trailer purchase.  Just B & B’s word that the trailers would be a certain style; the frames no more than 12 years old and completed retrofitted to new. Of course B & B didn’t honour their word.  Ironically they were in the news putting down Sagkeeng when the Centre was in the news, but yet they were the people who had done wrong.  They were late in delivery, brought bush-camp trailers, had not retrofitted to new, had older frames, had out of date air-conditioning units that could not be repaired, had wiring problems that did not pass code and were illegal, had leaking roofs and a host of other irregularities. We had the Province of Manitoba inspect the trailers and the province was very upset at what they found.  In any case Sagkeeng was stuck with the trailers, so we didn’t pay all the money.  We paid $100,000 plus money for the repairs and for concrete footings.  I am not sure what the total cost was but it was well over $100,000 for ugly trailers. We sent numerous letters to B & B after the deal was made. The reason we sent so many letters was to get in writing what they verbally agreed to.  We kind of realized throughout the process that we were getting screwed.  They never responded in writing to us, nor did they say that it was not true about what they had promised to Elmer.  We even went to them with money to try and get them to honour what they promised Elmer.  After this Perry wanted Ken back as Director of the program so Elmer was moved to another position. Although Elmer was easy going in the position he didn't have the skill set to manage the program.  

The good thing about Sagkeeng was that it had some very good people working there. The maintenance crew of Bepkins, Bunny, and Norman for example.  These guys saved the program lots of money by doing all sorts of repairs; from electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and everything else. Those guys were real good.  They were employed at the Alcare center and did not come work at the trailers, but the guys hired at the trailers were good too; Jerry and Poncho.  The Solvent program had to stay with the trailers because of the money spent and the amount of time it took to get them.  The program expanded to 44 beds. With this program there was still the contribution agreement thinking.  After all that is really what they knew of how government worked.

We had this long range plan to expand.  First the trailers were meant to be short term, a few years of operation there, than build a new complex like the Alcare Centre.  The operating costs would be kept low and there would be a build of money to start the process of building a new building like that of the Alcare Centre. There was talk of trying to build it on the north shore.  Something happened about the building of the new building, I am not sure what, but I think getting land was an issue. 

Purchasing capital: This is one of the things that we did that government says we did wrong. It was about the way we purchased buildings.  It was straightforward and always known to the government, that I was given money to buy capital items.  We were actually told that capital could not be purchased but we could lease. We were told how that we could lease capital items and not be in breach of a CA.  So that was the direction we went.  I guess this is also the Paul Cochrane factor.  He told Perry to incorporate as a non-profit entity.  So that is what happened.  I am not sure when Cochrane started to get into the picture but I think it was when we started getting kids from Ontario.  But the influence from Paul would change the program, and a lot of people’s lives.  I knew that Perry was benefiting from the money given back to him via the program capital plans. He drew a salary from that fund, but I don’t how much. I also drew my salary from the fund. I made very good money, ranging from 65,000 to 90,000 a year depending on what Perry decided. I did pay all of my expenses from that salary.  I know I earned my pay.  It was a good pay but not extreme.  After all the secondary goal of starting the program was to make money. So I didn’t begrudge Perry drawing money from the program, as long as Perry kept up buying capital and trying to build on the program, we knew that the capital purchase of buildings will materialize.  I always saw things happening with the program and saw that the kids were doing good by way of the program. Other people may disagree with the level of treatment and the benefit that the youth received at the program, but that is all subjective and relative to who you speak to.  I liked my job at the time, was benefiting from the job and felt that the program was actually doing something.  I wouldn’t know the extent of Paul’s interest and control until much later and the effect he had on Perry and the program.

I know there was a lot of money spent on the program and the kids.  There were lot of computers bought, 600 pairs of blue jeans at one time, a number of 15 seat passenger vans, SUV’s, 9 seat passenger vans, camping equipment, buildings to house Sweat Lodges for winter, garages for the vehicles, ceremonial outings and all sorts of other activities and trips for the kids.  So there were all sorts of activities that the program had going with the money that was being put back for capital.  

The money that was given back to the program was in anticipation of a building a permanent complex.  The trailers were a temporary measure.  The amount of beds that the trailers enabled the program to have was 44.  That realized into a lot of money coming into the program and the community.  Lot of jobs were created in the community.

In any case we leased buildings off of companies we started in order to satisfy the CA’s.  We were able to build and purchase buildings in this fashion.  It’s funny because this is what came to bite Perry in the ass, and yet the government in their RFP’s for 6 solvent treatments across Canada, made it part of the fee for service portion for reserves to build their new Centres.  Each new centre in their bed costs was to include the cost of constructing or leasing a building.  Unreal.  That is how the buildings and the renovations to the buildings at Seven Sisters were paid for. 

What is amazing is that we started a new company solely for the purpose of building a gym, called Bimibato. We were able to borrow $400,000.00 for the gym.  Can you imagine the ingenuity to do that?  How could a new company with no financial history be able to borrow such an amount?  We were given the task of finding money for a gym and some offices.  We went to Indian Affairs to see what we would need in order to do this.  I know the advice we got was to get a BCR (in Sagkeeng they call them Order in Councils :-0) stating that we had exclusive use of the land.  The other thing was to demonstrate that we were financially sound.  Well we were a new company, how could we be financially sound.  The thing was we used a lease agreement with Sagkeeng Solvent Centre to secure the loan. In addition we got the bank to ensure that the lease payments would go directly to pay off the loan.  I am not sure but I think we got government approval to redirect funds from the Transfer Agreement in case we reneged on the debt.  In any case the government was fully aware and supportive of this venture.  It is ironic that the government would come after this portion in a civil suit and not mention any of these events in the case. But that’s the way it is.

Are you familiar with AMA (Anishinaabe Mino-Ayaawin)? They were audited by the government as well. One of the recommendations was to seize their capital assets.  In the agreements they were not allowed to purchase capital.  I read in the paper that they purchased the building they were in.  I am not sure but they would have been in accordance to their agreements if they had indeed leased the building from a sister company. Later buying it back for one dollar after the debt was paid of the sister company buying it.  That was the intention of the Solvent Centre, to gain ownership after the loans were paid or the buildings built and paid for. 

Perry bought the property out in Seven Sisters after failed attempts to secure land in the reserve. Chief Jerry Fontaine didn’t seem to like Perry and wasn’t real supportive of the treatment program.  So if there were talks to get a permanent building in the reserve, nothing came of it.  I guess that’s why the Seven Sisters site was chosen. 

The Seven Sisters site was actually very nice.  A lot of money went into that building. We bought extra buildings and moved them to the site.  They were renovated and made into offices.  The building was not much when first purchased but after a considerable amount of investment into it, it was passed by the Province of Manitoba as meeting standards of a child care facility. The building was held in my name until the purchase price and renovations were to be paid off, after that it would return to the Solvent program’s name.   It’s too bad that kind of investment that went into Seven Sisters didn’t make it in the reserve for a new building. 

The land site of Seven Sisters and the building had a lot of potential for expansion and program enhancement, but that never happened.  There was enough land available to make it into a hobby farm, or other kind of animal care place, where the kids could look after them and learn some skills and responsibility. 

The Paul Cochrane factor: That Paul Cochrane sure did a number on not only Perry and Sagkeeng but all Indians across Canada.  I am not saying this just to be spiteful, but because it is true.  I will outline a pattern of Paul’s attitude towards Indians the control he had and the way he imposed his will. I guess the only way I can demonstrate this is to give some cases of instances of Paul’s actions and his attitude.

Paul was known by Perry and a lot of other Indian people in Manitoba.  He was the Regional Director of Health Canada in Manitoba for some time.  So there was a relationship there with a lot of Indians, although it was superficial.  I think it was the same with Perry. He wanted to believe that Paul was more than a friendly acquaintance in the same work field.  I guess it was lure of knowing a big shot and being connected.  Perry seemed to go out of his way to make Paul feel good. I think it was because of the power and position that Paul held.

Paul was moved to the Ontario region and Larry McCafferty became RD of Manitoba.  So when the Solvent program started, was up and running, purchased the trailers.  I can not be sure if he was around before Seven Sisters site was opened. In any case that really is not that significant.  What is significant is the amount of control that Paul exerted over Perry and the program.

I have to admit I was never really a fan of Paul Cochrane.  I found him to be very paternalistic.  He didn’t even know that he demonstrated this characteristic. I was witness to his behaviour because I did get to spend time with him by way of his contact with Perry.  So I think I have a good handle of what he was and how he conducted himself.

One of the first examples I can give is when Paul told Perry to hire his sons for the summer months.  I can’t remember how many times he did this, but it was over the course of a few years.  You have to remember that the staff of the Centre were not paid as much as they should have been.  But the Cochrane boys were paid handsomely for they work at the Centre.  Basically they got to hang out in the reserve and be paid.  It wasn’t right.  A lot of the staff had asked for raises and were never given one. I know my deceased nephew was working at the boys unit for a while but was not paid very good. I know he had asked for more money was denied. I remember my Mom talking about it and how it was hard for him because he had a family to look after.  Paul’s boys were paid way more than what the staff were paid. I know that as fact. I realize that Perry had no real choice in allowing Paul to exert control over Sagkeeng. Paul was a man of power and position and he WAS the government. Perry could have tried to be fair with the employees, but that was just not in his nature.

Paul had some much control over Indian health it was unreal. I remember when Transfer Agreements came out.  People were not sure of how much control it gave to reserves.  Or what the real intent was.  Maybe it was an off-loading scheme of not only money but fiduciary.  In any case, a British Columbia band had gone into a Transfer Agreement (TA) and the Band was in the news because they had invested some of their money from the TA. The investment went bad and the Band lost money. It was not a fault of theirs, it was a very bad change in the market.  I remember being in Pauls’ house when he remarked about that situation.  He said he was going to put clauses in the TA’s  so the bands couldn’t invest like that.  His decision was just so final and just matter of fact.  No discussions with Indians, just what he thinks and that was it.  So much for the ability of Indians to make decisions on their own. This is what Paul was all about…control.

There are many examples of the control that Paul had and how he injected himself into the Centre and Perry’s life. I imagine that Perry welcomed it, after all, who doesn’t want to be connected?  Here you have some Indian from the reserve rubbing elbows with some of the most powerful people in Canada. Paul became a significant figure in the daily operation of Sagkeeng. The Centre hosted an annual Powwow and even in that event Paul put himself center stage.  He was drum judge in the Singing contest.  That was downright disgusting.  At the Powwow in Winnipeg, he was drinking and was tipsy while he was judging the contest.  I never noticed him drunk there, but that is what Ken told me.  I remember a lot of dancers were upset at this whiteman.  Perry probably had little choice but to include him in the powwow. Or maybe Perry invited Paul to be involved in the contests of the Powwow, only those two know for sure.

Paul tried to control what people thought or who they supported.  We went to the World Junior Hockey game in Winnipeg, Canada and Russia (a young fast Russian was playing J  ).  Paul was having a few and we got into an argument over Terry Nelson.  I was a strong advocate of Terry and his writings.  Paul complained to Perry about my argument with him.  Perry gave me heck over making Paul cry.  I just thought Paul had a little too much to drink. Aline the executive assistant was rubbing Paul’s back to console and soothe him.  I wasn’t allowed to support Terry’s stances when Paul was around. Paul even tried to control what people at the community level felt and thought. Terry may not be the sincerest person in the Indian community but he did try to make a difference. He has since become Chief of his community, continues to gain exposure but now has no time for the ‘little people’.  

Paul and I would have the same argument later on.  Terry Nelson did a book called the Genocide in Canada, about the impact of poor health services in his community.  Paul would say that is where Rosseau used its Transfer Agreement dollars.  Terry Nelson was going to present his book at the World Health Organization - WHO conference in Geneva at the United Nations - UN.  I don’t remember the year.  Paul wanted to the counter the image of Canada that Terry would portray, so Paul told Perry to prepare a presentation about the solvent program.  I was given the task of doing  a presentation. The government was to get a copy of the presentation ahead of time to ensure it painted a good picture. If the presentation did not meet the government’s approval, it would have to be changed. Paul and I had a discussion about this and compromising principles.  The conversation wasn’t well received by Paul. In the end we made a presentation that basically highlighted the strides Sagkeeng was making in the treatment area and didn’t focus on the plight of Indians on reserves. The government paid for a trip for us to go and the do the presentation at the UN.  In Geneva, Paul and I argued over Terry Nelson’s writing. It was here again that my position at the Centre was threatened.  It wasn’t the first time and not the last time.  Perry told me that “Terry doesn’t pay your salary”.  Paul sure had a lot of control over Perry, and you know the saying “shit rolls downhill”.  Guess who got the shit?  But hey I was able to get a trip out of it for my wife and baby.  Of course I had to change my tickets to economy, but we got to go.  Perry and Ken didn’t have to change their tickets for them and their families.  They sat at the front and we sat in the back. ( :-0  Ha ha, I know I sound petty. But it illustrates my standing in the grande scheme of things.) 

It’s weird the things you remember and the triggers that make you remember.  My wife, my baby and I had lunch with Paul, his wife and Perry at a restaurant.  Paul offered to pay for Perry and his family’s meal but not us.  He made sure to get my baby’s item of his check when it came.  That was so funny and typical.  My wife and I laughed at how rude this guy was.  It’s a nothing memory but it sticks in the mind because of the way it shows Paul’s personality and how different some people are. That was one of the things my deceased Mom had stressed, “Make sure to feed people”. Even in her note to her children while she was dying of cancer, she made sure to let us know to feed people.  I feel sorry for Paul and his narrow view of the world; that he thinks only of himself.

I remember getting heck from Perry over comments I made about Paul’s Jeep.  We were in Ottawa and were picking up Paul to go to a Senators game.  I noticed a purple jeep in the driveway of Paul’s house and I commented, “Hey, you got a new Jeep”.  Paul didn’t say anything, but gave Perry a look.  Later on Perry gave me shit about pointing out (Perry’s Wife) Doloris’ old Jeep.  Honest to God, I am really dense sometimes. I really didn’t know that it was her vehicle.  I don’t know if the Jeep was given or sold, but Paul wasn’t happy about my comment. 

There are lots of examples of Paul’s behaviour, but I won’t bore you with too many examples. However, this one is significant because it is the action that affected everyone in Indian country and the treatment sector.  And it is the example that demonstrates the control Paul had over Perry and subsequently, control over the Centre. You remember that the Centre had 44 beds at $200 per day.  That is a lot of beds and a lot of money.  Who in business (or any one for that matter) would agree to lower the beds to 36 when they already have the infrastructure to house 44?  They were already servicing and getting paid for 44 beds at $200 per day. You can do the math.  But that is what happened.  Paul told Perry to lower to 36 beds from 44 and he did.  But he also told Perry that he would no longer bill out of NIHB. So where would the funds come from?  Paul would give him a transfer agreement with a five-year duration.   Paul also said that he would take the money out of NIHB and close that funding option for further solvent and alcohol treatment.  This was the ultimate oligarchy, where Paul controlled Indian Health and Sagkeeng and where Perry controlled the program.  There was no process of discussion with the Board of the program in anything that went on, only a superficial or cursory explanation of things that would take place.

Paul decided that he would give something back.  A grand gesture on his part (:-0).  He would allow 6 treatment centres across Canada.  When Paul closed the NIHB thing, lot of non-Native centres took the hit.  I remember talking to the director of St. Norbert who said they took a two million dollar hit.  You see the thing is if they close the NIHB funding arrangement, it also closes it for everyone, not only Sagkeeng.  Since the NIHB funding is no longer available, now other reserves in the future that may have decided to open up their own centres, will not be able to access funds to do it.  They have to plead to the government for a sponsored program.  Think of it, 630 potential centres in their own communities across Canada. That is what Canada was worried about. They didn’t seem to mind when it was non-Native centres in Canada and the U.S. before, but Indians started in on the action, it was a big problem. 

There was another practice Paul and the government was actually good at: the art of flow through dollars. This is when the government wanted to fund some activity or some group without having to go through Treasury Board or some other administrative nightmare. They would flow the dollars through some existing program and finance the activity or group in that manner. Sagkeeng was put in that situation many times over the years.  Some of the flow through included training dollars, and the treatment centre articulation/certification process.  Sagkeeng would provide the vehicle for the government in their goal to fund other activities and groups.

Paul’s influence seemed to have no bounds. He managed to take the two separate legal entities; the Sagkeeng Alcare Centre and the Sagkeeng Solvent Treatment Centre, and merge them into one centre; the Virginia Fontaine Memorial Centre. The only thing Paul didn’t do was to select the name of the ‘new’ program. This move to join programs had dire consequences for Perry, the staff of the programs and the people of Sagkeeng.

Perry had organized a vacation/training trip for his staff to go on a cruise. This was the start of the collapse of the Sagkeeng program and the fall of Paul Cochrane.  When the cruise ship scandal took place and the Minister, Allan Rock, was left with no option but to attack the people at the program, the Minister decided to suspend funding to the VFMC.  This was in fact the two separate programs.  Many people lost their jobs. Lost a livelihood and many have never recovered. If the two programs had remained separate entities, the odds of both of them being closed would not have been as high. In any case Paul has his hand in this area as well. Answer me this, which  Assistant Deputy Minister - ADM does that?  What ADM goes into a community and dictates how the program should be incorporated or set up?

Paul’s influence and personal dealings was not solely with Sagkeeng. He was working with Daryl Cote at AMA. Turns out he authorized some contribution agreements for AMA as well. I have no real knowledge, except for the media and the rumour mill as to the extent of their relationship.

I don’t paint a very good picture of Paul, but it is how I saw and still see him.  Even in the papers, some of his closest colleagues and underlings paint the same type of picture: a controlling individual, ambitious, loose morals, and self serving behaviour. 

You know Paul didn’t do himself any favours by being the way his was. As the Sagkeeng investigation developed many of Paul’s colleagues pointed the finger at him.  I guess Paul’s free rein under Health Canada Deputy Minister David Dodge came to an end.  Not because of David Dodge, it seems Dodge let Paul do what ever he wanted.  Paul traveled all over the place with his executive assistant, Aline.  Paul spent money how he pleased, change policy whenever he liked. He made decisions with no consequence. Paul didn’t seem to answer to anyone.  What the heck was David Dodge thinking?

People don’t remember but Paul was being moved from ADM to Indian Affairs prior to his downfall.  Before he was removed from office he spent all of the ADM budget.  The incoming ADM didn’t have dollars to work with and that set off a fire.  I think that not only his control of Sagkeeng, but his sense of all encompassing power is what led to his demise.  Spending all the money of the ADM’s budget before he was transferred out must have pissed off the new ADM.  The new ADM must have helped push Paul’s fall from grace a little, but I am just guessing here.

Don’t worry about Paul, I heard he was doing work for some Bands prior to his sentencing.  I imagine a guy like him won’t suffer too much. 

How Sagkeeng saved Canada Money and got 6 centres for Natives across Canada:  When the government tried to stop Sagkeeng from accessing Non-insured benefits, they could not stop Sagkeeng without hurting other Centres. So when prohibitive measures were taken to stop Sagkeeng. It also caused problems for the non-Native centres that were taking in Native clients. 

You may remember the headlines “head-hunter”.  It was a number of stories regarding Canadian’s going for treatment in the U.S.  The news media picked up on one story regarding “head-hunters”.  People were going up to Indians and referring them to go for “trips”.  In some cases the Canadian government were paying upwards to $750.00 per day.  This really didn’t seem to be an issue with the government.  They paid without contracts only a doctors referral.  A ‘head-hunter’ or a referral service agent would actively seek out people requiring treatment and get them sent to the U.S.  Of course these referral people/head-hunters would get a commission for referral.  The more you refer the more you make. I remember reading about one adult alcohol treatment costs to be quoted as $250,000.00 for treatment in California.  I am not sure of what or how many people received treatment at Fairview, in Minnesota.  I do know they were one of the centers mentioned in the news stories that were treating Canadians.

So guess what happened to these head-hunters when the government started changing the rules on Sagkeeng?  Well it changed on them as well.  So if the rule was you can’t go outside of Ontario until all the beds are full, they in theory should not have been able to still refer clients.  Well they adapted to the rules as well.  “Sub-offices” were set up in Ontario.  You get referred to the sub-office but the actual treatment would take place in the States. So they were still successful in getting clients.

When Paul and the government finally removed NHIB as a funding source for treatment services, it stopped all referrals for alcohol and solvent treatment.  I assume that is what has happened.  The evidence that this took affect was the plight of the St. Norbert Foundation and the Selkirk Healing Lodge.  I was told by the Director, they took a two million dollar hit because of the changes. St. Norbert  did not stand still when the changes were made. They did not accept the change without a fight.  They lobbied the government hard.  I know that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Keewaatin Tribal Council were approached to write letters on their behalf for funding.  I heard Lloyd Askworthy also lobbied for them.  They were somewhat successful in receiving funding.  AMC and KTC wrote letters of support that Selkirk Healing Lodge helped Aboriginal people in treatment.  Selkirk Healing Lodge did receive the status of emergency beds for solvent abuser while the six Canadian Solvent programs were being developed.  You have to remember the six beds for solvent abuse didn’t come out of nowhere and it wasn’t because of the lobbying by Native reserves. The government was not being benevolent to Indians. They were looking after their own ends. In any case there was proposal process for the solvent program development, that included the building or leasing, and solvent program development.  It took a while for the new centres to become operational. During this time, Selkirk Healing Lodge would receive Aboriginal clients and funding from the new funding stream that Paul established.

Since the government stopped NHIB it stopped any chance of any other treatment centre Native or non-Native from ever getting a chance to open.  You have to remember that the government stance on treatment centres was that there was “no more funding for Treatment Centres”.  Well Sagkeeng went out and started one anyway. This act started a lot of problems for the government.  They were getting a lot of political pressure as to why only Sagkeeng. “Why does Sagkeeng, a centre in the south have a solvent centre?  How come they got one and not us?  The northern reserves in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Inuit should have one and not Sagkeeng. It must have been Phil Fontaine that got them that centre”.  Most of the Bands were going after Paul and the government for the fact that Sagkeeng had a centre. It was like they had blinders on; “we have to get one because they have one they shouldn’t have one”.

It’s quite funny, because we went to Phil when he was at AMC and sought a letter of support for the program. We were looking for a letter that stated we treated Indians in Manitoba. That never happened.  My Dad and I met with John Robson, who was health advisor for AMC at the time. I remember he lied to my Dad about something and we knew. I forget what the lie was but knew that we weren’t getting any support from them. He lied to my Dad, to his face.  Robson didn’t know that we knew he was telling us was a lie.  Too bad I forget what the lie was, I just remember the fact that he lied and that was all we had to do with him and AMC.  Interesting though, that AMC had no problem writing letters of support for a non-Native centre when they asked for one.

So when the government realized that it couldn’t kill Sagkeeng’s solvent centre and the fact that Sagkeeng was trying to encourage others to do what they did, the government changed the funding scheme.  So it took away NHIB, but developed a limited 6 centre program to appease everyone.  If they didn’t stop the NHIB, it would have dawned on the Indians that they could open their own centre.  Conceivably you could have over 630 centres across Canada.  Now the only way that there can ever be more than 6 centres is if the government changes their policy and ‘gives’ Indians more programs.  You should now see that without Sagkeeng, the policy of “no more treatment centre” would still be the policy of the government and non-Native centres would still be able to charge whatever they wanted for treatment.  They would still have access to Health Canada’s NHIB funding pool.  If it were not for Sagkeeng, these things would not have happened.  So just say, Thank You Sagkeeng for helping get 6 treatments centres for other reserves and for saving Tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars from the NHIB fund.  However, you should be upset that Paul, representative of the government of Canada, can just change the ‘Medicine Chest’ at this pleasure.

The Indian factor: I am very very proud of being Indian. That is a testament of how my Mom and Dad viewed the world and shared that with us kids. I know the good things about being Indian and the bad things that also come with being Indian in the reserve. It is both the positive and negative aspects of being Indian that has played a part in the Sagkeeng episode.  About the Indian factor, the courts recognize that there is a difference between main stream society and Indians. However, they can’t get a handle on what that difference is. They can’t quantify or point to the differences and say “this is why Indians are this way”.  It’s those subtle differences, those characteristics, behaviours, values and attitudes that define us and separate us from main stream Canada. That Indian factor played an important role in the rise and fall of the Sagkeeng program.

One of the things that we did was approach MKO to follow what Sagkeeng did when establishing a solvent centre. That’s right, we met with Jennie Wastasecoot, Sydney Garrioch and Richard Jock.  Richard Jock, a Mohawk from St. Regis  was either working as the Director General of Health Canada or on leave to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) as the health advisor. I am not sure of Sydney’s position but he was high up in the MKO organization at the time, I think his was Grand Chief.

Perry and I met with Sydney, Jennie and Richard at the Smith Street building across from the St Regis hotel.  At that meeting Perry had urged Jennie and Sydney to do like Sagkeeng did.  That was to open up their own centre and bill the government for the use of the beds.  The meeting did not yield any thing positive. Richard Jock was selling the idea of a solvent program like NNAADAP.  A program the government provides the dollars for and the direction of administration. Richard said that Paul was going to start a new fund for Solvent treatment and to wait for him.  So MKO did not decide to open their own centre, they waited for it to be made for them.

In the end Paul did make a solvent program.  Ironically what he had put into the agreement was action that the reserves could have done without his consent.  He also took the money for the program fund out of a fund that Indians could have accessed without his permission or blessing. With the new solvent funding the reserves still had to finance the building or leasing of the treatment centre through the funding formula of $200 per day.  The programs were not only responsible for the O & M of the program with that amount but also the capital. They should have done what Sagkeeng had done to begin with and not have to wait for Paul’s consent. But that is the built in mindset of the Indian; government gives and Indians wait and receive. It is also what the government expects of Indians; to be under the spell of their good graces and ultimately their control. (hoh wa, starting to sound like a rhetoric spouting Indian here. LOL.)

Seriously, the government can always count on Indians to be their own worst enemy. That the jealously factor is synonymous with the Indian factor. I think they call it indoondenimaa. I heard so many people taking credit for the fall of Sagkeeng solvent centre; not only people in Sagkeeng, but other Indians (and a non-Native lady) from different organizations. People were celebrating the fall of the program and the mess Perry was in. It was utterly disgusting, that they didn’t even realize the magnitude of their jealousy.  It reminds me of the goat story that my friend told me about the mindset in his country. “These two guys have goat farms.  They both work at the farm.  Sadly and suddenly, all the goats die on this one farm. Leaving the farmer sad, hurt and angry.  He looks across at this neighbour, who still has his goat farm. Oh, how the farmer wishes. He wishes that the second farmer’s goats would die.”  Do you get it? The farmer didn’t wish to have goats like his neighbour, his thinking is so skewed that he wanted the other farmer to be in the same sad situation as him.  That is the Indian factor. 

Don’t get me wrong, the Indian factor is not all negative, but it’s the negative that does the damage. If it wasn’t for the Indian factor, there would have been a permanent site built in the reserve, rather than spending money outside of the reserve. Jerry Fontiane was leader of the community but wanted to have the resources that Perry had. It was not meant to be so Jerry made no attempt to hide his contempt for the Alcare and the solvent program. Perry in turn wielded the program’s wealth like it was his own; flaunting it at everyone inside and outside of the community.  It was no wonder that some people rejoiced at his demise. Rejoicing at the death of so many jobs in the community and closure of a service that many Indians relied on. Maybe the Band’s Chief and Council would have fought to keep the jobs rather than encourage the government to come in and close the program, had it not been for the Indian factor.

When the closure looked it was going to take place and signals were being sent to the other Native treatment across Canada that Sagkeeng’s funding might be up for grabs, guess what was on the mind of some of our Indian leaders?  I mentioned flow through dollars to existing entities was a common practice of Paul’s.  He gave half a million to fund hockey schools in Manitoba for Phil Fontaine. At the time I had heard it was eighty-five thousand that Phil was trying to save, but I think the half million amount is for the whole length of time of the transfer agreement, but I can’t be sure. It was quite funny because Jerome Berthlette was going around telling people that when Sagkeeng didn’t look like it was going to survive, Phil asked that they “save his “money”.  If it wasn’t so sad a commentary on the Indian factor and the mind-set of our people, it would be funny. There were a lot of sad jokes going around the community about that request and where the interests lay. I am not sure if Phil’s money did get saved, but it was well known he had several meetings with David Dodge to try and save his hockey school money. It’s too bad he didn’t try and get the program saved at the community level as well. But maybe he did try, who really knows, except for him and David Dodge. But Jerome didn’t do any kindness to Phil going around telling people about his request to Dodge. I had the impression that Jerome liked Phil but his actions contradict my impression. My dad is a big fan of Phil. I think it’s more of a pride thing for my dad. Phil has made a name for himself and is a leader, so my dad respects and feels good for Phil and my dad takes pride in what Phil has accomplished. 

Another thing that happened in Indian country was the quick response by the existing Native centres to try and pick the carcass of the Sagkeeng program. There were moves and requests for the funds to be spread among them. I don’t think it was necessary a bad thing, but it was opportunistic. Maybe in that position Sagkeeng would have done the same thing.  It is said that the treatment centre directors met quite early on in Ottawa (October 24, 25, 26) to listen to proposals about Sagkeeng’s funding and distribution among the other NAADAP Centres.   This meeting occurred way before the fate of Sagkeeng was decided and way before the audit actually took place or was even called for. The directors met early on in the scandal to discuss what happens should Sagkeeng be closed down. If this is the case than it looks like a little premeditated closure thinking on behalf of the government. Perry has said that he saw Bertha (Pritchard House Director) and other Treatment Centre directors in Ottawa at that time. Bertha could collaborate that the meeting took or say that this meeting didn’t take place. I never did ask Bertha about the meeting if it took place or not. I guess Paul Glover or Nick Hassak from Health Canada had told Perry about purpose of the meeting between Health Canada and the Treatment centre directors.

Perry and I disagree about whether or not the program could have been saved. I say it could have been saved and he says that the government had it in their mind to close down the centre. The government did in fact close down the centre, but I think the government still had options. But Perry might have been right. Perry didn’t have many allies in the government only Paul, and Paul had created quite a number enemies. So it is quite possible that those enemies of Paul became enemies of Sagkeeng, but who knows. I know one of Paul’s critics Mike Degange did not like Sagkeeng at all. He was one of the first of Paul’s critics to jump out and point out Paul’s indiscretions. Mike is an Indian from Fort Francis, a career bureaucrat and currently sits on the Aboriginal Healing Fund board.  I guess Mike reacted to the way he was treated. Ken was very rude to him and I recently learned he had threatened Mike and his family.

My mom used to tell me that Fort Alex (that’s what a lot of the Old People called Sagkeeng) has some of the most generous people. When there is trouble the people will be there for you. This is one of the positive Indian factors of our community. When the cruise scandal started to get larger, Perry came to my house to ask for help.  Even though I was angry at Perry, I said yes, there was never any thought of not trying to help. Because that’s what my Mom said Indians do. I sought help from Sean Kosis. Sean set up a meeting with the Health Canada Regional Director - RD at the time, Richard Legaue. He wasn’t there very long and was not really a decision maker, but still he and Sean had an understanding. The understanding was to save the program.  Perry was to fire Ken and hand over the program to the Band. In this way the Minister, Allan Rock, could have his ‘pound of flesh’.  The public would see that swift action took place. The audit would still take place but the program would be intact.  This didn’t happen. Perry was keen on the idea the first time Sean and I had spoken to him, but sometime later he had changed his mind and his attitude. Perry was rude to Sean and was telling me that he wouldn’t “back stab Ken”.  How ironic isn’t it? Perry was telling me this, the guy he treated like shit, in other words, back stabbed.  Perry and Ken had also treated Sean like shit a few years before that as well. The way they treated him was abhorrent. Still Sean was willing to come and help because I had asked him to. And when we went to Perry’s house the second time, Perry was rude to him. That was it, we left and didn’t talk to Perry after that. Patrick was a witness to this event and was helpful in setting up the RD meeting. I can only speculate as to what had changed Perry’s mind, but I believe that Ken had talked to him and convinced him not to go the route we had planned. Shortly after our visit, Ken was in the news defying the government to close them down, and from there that was it.  The funding stopped, Perry and Ken started to give themselves pay-out packages and finally the program went down. I don’t think they had any options left and the government was going to come in and take away any monies left in the program. I think Perry and Ken when they dished out the money, they should have included the staff that were working there at the time and not only a select few. 

To paint Perry as someone who is only for himself is not fair, nor is it really true. Perry did a lot for the community and for people. I have seen what he did for the reserve and for other communities.  I remember when we used to meet with government about NAADAP issues, he would go to bat for the other programs. It got to the point that the government workers did not care for Sagkeeng in meetings. I remember we addressed the issue of NAADAP’s data gathering system. It was program called TARS. This was basically a data input program to correlate the demographic make up of clients in Native treatment centres. The contract for this was given to an ex-employee of Health Canada. I remember that the program was so out of date that it would not work on the computers. It was a DOS program and Canada was in a Windows world. Our issue was that the ex-employee’s company was just collecting the annual maintenance contract of the program and not doing any work to upgrade and assist the communities at large. There were many other instances where Sagkeeng took the lead against government for the treatment centres and

When I was in time of crisis Perry came out to help me and my wife. Even though he knew I was upset with him, and he had a court order to not talk to me, he came out to my house. My boy had passed away and Perry phoned me to say how sorry he felt. Perry made a substantial donation, twenty five hundred dollars, to us to help with the funeral costs. A lot of my other friends didn’t even come see me.  Perry is an Indian and that comes out in times of crisis. When I first started to get to know Perry and hang out with him. This is the way it was. Sure he was cheeky to people, but he was also very much an Indian. He was fun to be with and willing to help you no matter what. That is the guy that became my friend. I loved his kids and they became part of our family circle. Regardless of how cruel Perry was to me I was still trying to be his friend.  But you know sometimes time has a way of changing things.  You grow apart, have different interests, have different friends and that can affect how you treat each other. I attribute a lot of the change in Perry and the program to the Paul Cochrane factor and the money factor. My mom used to tell me that money changes you. I think Perry did what a lot of people would do in his situation.  He protected the program by doing what he thought was the best option, listening to Paul’s direction. In turn Paul got a taste of the money that was going into Sagkeeng and so he dipped in. 

A little side note here about how dysfunctional it is at the community level. That is part of the Indian factor, the dysfunction (I like how that word has become trendy). There is the ‘who’s looking at me’ phenomenon. Some Indians will do something for the attention.  They will be righteous or generous in a crowd. Like go to a ceremony, funeral in another reserve to show people who they are. When my boy passed away there was no crowd so the ‘big shots’ didn’t come out because there was no ‘look at me’ factor. But I know when another boy passed away in a far away community some of the big wigs went to show their support. Even though that boy had no real tie to the community. But Perry didn’t do that in our case. He came in the shadows and silently helped us. To this day he is one of the few that I talk about my boy with. For some reason he has the gift to listen and care in that situation. It’s like he’s two different people, a paradox.  I think that is part of the Indian factor. We were so controlled by people in the past, like the Indian agent and the government that it becomes a trait of ourselves. We get in control of some business, program or family and we get crazy over control.  Just look at how much control men do to women in a reserve family setting as an example. I know from experience that I was like that, an abusive individual. It’s hard to own up to those dysfunctions.  I show part of my own shortcomings here by complaining about someone else’s misery and that is not right. I should have more restraint, but the hypocrisy of people really pisses me off. That is the thing here, I am not without my own demons and biases. I have a lot of issues that I am working through and dealing with.

When my boy passed away, I lost my mind. Although it didn’t happen immediately, it did happen. Now I reflect a lot on what took place during that time.  One of my oldest friends since we were about six years old, Earl Morrisseau gave me a lesson in life. We have been friends for years and he knows my kids very well. But when my boy passed Earl showed me what happens when you expect much from people, they will let you down. Here is a guy that knew my kids, stayed at my house from time to time.  Earl was someone we fed and at times clothe. We shared our home and our love with this guy.  But he did not have the grace to come and see my boy. He did come briefly one morning with his body guard while he was drinking. I was really disappointed. Other caring people came. A lot of my Mom and Dad’s relatives, my wife’s family and friends and many of my friends as well came to visit my boy. Earl showed me what type of person he was. A couple of years later an old friend of Earl’s passed away. This guy I know as well. Earl wasn’t that close to him, but Earl went right away to his service and gave $200.00 to one of the guy’s ex-girl friend. She asked him what was that for? He said that’s what you do when someone passes. Yes, it something someone does, when you want to make yourself look good. I hold no anger towards Earl, just the realization that he is who he is.  He is an example of the ‘look at me’ Indian factor when it comes to doing things for people. He is also a product of what is wrong in the Indian community. We tend to take those for granted that are kind to us.

One of the things I did when I spoke to Perry a while back is to tell him I was sorry for hurt that I may have caused him.  I have long since forgiven him.  I blamed him for ruining my life. But that is not really fair to put my decisions on him. I still wonder if he knows the pain he caused to the community, his friends and family.  I remember when he used to get upset at work. It was a very stressful work environment, because your days went accordingly to his feelings. People that were closest to him felt that more than regular staff. We used to make excuses for his behaviour, by saying things like he is under stress or he is just upset. The excuses we made were for our own rationalization of accepting harsh treatment.  I now know from organizational behaviour literature that the exhibited behaviour is not uncommon. But in the Indian world it is magnified. The Indian world is smaller so decisions and actions have much more of an impact. If a person is fired or hired it makes an impression in the whole community. It affects a lot of people. The point I am trying unsuccessful to make here, is that in the Indian world our actions have bigger benefits or bigger consequences because of how we are. I haven’t heard Perry ever say he was sorry for his actions and how it affected me, my family, his family and the community. Not for him to be sorry for his actions with the government but how he treated people who cared for him. I am not sure if he realizes how that affects everyone. That’s one thing I hope happens is that Perry can honestly appraise the situation, his actions, his responsibility. He treated me very badly throughout our friendship and working relationship. He was very mean to me and the worse thing is that I allowed it. He did not honour any loyalty that I had given him. Maybe he knows, but I kind of doubt it. I guess he will always be selfish.  I know now that we were in a very abusive relationship and it has left me with a very damaged self. 

My mom was a very devoted Catholic and she lived as a good person. She also recognized that there is medicine out there. She was very tolerant of others view. She kept my Eagle whistle for the Sundance and cooked for the feast when I was there. My mom told me of how she saw a Fire-ball as a kid. It was flying over someone’s house. She told me what it meant. I am not sure if she also told me about that guy who chased and caught one, but when he opened his hand it was nothing but bunched up twigs.  In any case she demonstrated what Indians are, superstitious.  Indians are not superstitious, (I use that word facetiously; another Indian factor), Indians are believers of things beyond the person. That is something that some people say happened at the Centre, that people used medicine to bring it down. That is the Indian factor, Indians no matter of their religious affiliation, know that medicine exists. Main stream society uses the word superstitious because it denotes a negative connotation. I know Perry went to ceremony and saw some people who used medicine on him.  I don’t doubt he saw something. He should also know about Onji-ne.  I know Indians know this and believe. So he should also have seen himself in that medicine as well. For me Onji-ne is something I will leave with for the rest of my days. I should have been a better person. Now all I have is regret for losing my boy.

The Indian factor is very much alive and having a direct impact on how we see things, how we behave and how we live. I remember being interviewed by the police and them saying that I was worth money because the Seven Sisters complex was in my name. Man, I never even thought about it. But that is something Whitepeople could not understand, the concept of ownership is not that big a thing in Indian country. Sure we like stuff and go out to buy stuff, but to think of ourselves in terms of worth. I am not sure if that is true. I know lots of people that own vehicles and the vehicles are registered in the previous owner’s names. There is no thought of the other people will take back the vehicle because it is in their name, they just don’t go through the hassle of a ‘safety inspection’ for registration. Same thing with owning a fire arm; uncles, friends, cousins just share or give guns to whomever. When the Seven Sisters was bought there was no thought about who owned it, it would always belong to the program and that was it. 

I wondered why when Indians got into positions of power and were doing well financially they didn’t want others to do as well as they did. I think it has to do with the Indian factor, the historically imprint we have learned about control and power. I think people in power, believe that the line must be maintained somehow and if others aspire or are seen as doing as well as they are that it lessons their own position. Their title must be better than others and their salary must be better than others as well. I am not sure about this factor yet but am fairly certain that it exists. I have witnessed that Indian people in power will do their darn-nest to make sure that others don’t do as well as they do.  I am not saying they will keep them down, but will help them up only to a certain point. They want to make sure that they maintain the power, the financial status to keep them higher than the others. This is something that helped bring down the Centre. People that weren’t climbing as high, or had the financial prosperity as others sought to bring it down, and those in control sought to keep people from reaching their status and position. So both forces worked against each other, resulting in no strength to keep the program. This happens in other places as well, not just Sagkeeng.

Regrets and Resentments: I am happy that we got to work in the community for so many years. We brought a lot of jobs to the community. The community benefited from the resources that came along with the solvent program. That is something that no one can take away. We provided much for the community and for Indian people. So regardless of what happened and what people say, we know that we did right by the reserve. The reserve helped me a lot with my education and so did the centre, so I am grateful.  I feel that what we accomplished and the amount of resources we brought into Sagkeeng balances out to some degree what the reserve did for us and what we achieved for the community. When the centre was operating it did a lot for the community in terms of donations, events and community promotion. There were Elders dinners and gift exchange at Christmas.  The Centre hosted an annual powwow celebration that was a success for the community. The program also sponsors a number of teams and so forth.  The centre did a lot for the community when it was in operation. And it is sad that it had to be taken away. Sad that people took delight in killing it and sad that someone or a number of people were actively telling the government how to kill the program. Can you imagine what a loss of 90 jobs does to a community? It would not be stood for in a non-Native community. The leadership would fight for and work to keep those jobs. That didn’t happen in our community. The leadership held the door open for government to come in and take away those jobs.

There are a number of things that I am sorry for. I should have been a better person when I saw Ken and Perry treating people badly.  I think I was so scared of losing the money I was making that I lost part of my soul for a time. I should have stopped sucking up to them and stood up more for people and for myself.  I remember some of the things that were done to staff that should not have been done. I saw when Perry and Ken were mad at David Blacksmith, they treated him very badly. Ken was insecure of the knowledge that David possessed and Perry just treated people badly when he felt like it. Ken had used a Sweat Lodge ceremony to punish David at the behest of Perry. It was the middle of winter and Ken told David that he was to go out and collect Juniper. Unless you really know where the Juniper is, it would difficult to find in the bush because it would be covered by snow. According to Ken this task for David was given to Ken by the Grandfathers in the Sweat. In actuality it was Perry who told Ken to send David on the bush errand. I asked Ken about this some time later and he didn’t deny it, but said he regretted what he did.  I should have stood up for David then, but I guess I was scared too. I did talk with David after the Sweat and told him not to go. David said he knew that it was not a real Grandfather task, it was only Ken being Ken.

I had talked Sean into coming to work for the program. He is very smart and hard working so I thought he would do well at the centre. Sean had worked out an agreement with Perry and Ken to continue with his MBA while working at the centre. Things changed very quickly and the centre was not honouring their agreement with Sean. Ken even took Sean’s office away from him, so Sean didn’t even have a desk. Ken also tested Sean’s loyalty by telling him that I was stealing money from the program. Of course Sean told me what Ken had said.  I went to talk to Ken about it and he denied saying it and turned in to being Perry’s fault. Sean ended up leaving the program after a short work stint there. I should have been a better friend to him and left at that time. Again the uncertainty of not having a job, my mixed up selfish thinking and my loyalty to Perry won over my decision. I ended up staying with the program even though I didn’t like what was taking place.

That’s one of the criticisms that government and the courts will say that people were scared to lose their jobs, so they let Paul do what he did. Of course that’s true. But one thing the government doesn’t understand is the scarcity of jobs. That if you have a job in the reserve you hold on to that job. You may never get the chance again. The reserve is an island where the rules of mainstream society do not necessarily apply.

 I once believed that your name meant everything and loss of that name was one of the worse things that could happen to you. With the Sagkeeng scandal I did lose my name and much more, and it did affect me harshly.  I still believe that your name is important and that your word must mean something. I also know there are much worse things than losing your name. In this case the loss of name is not limited to a few people. Sagkeeng is now tainted. And the sad thing is that we are allowing it to continue. We have no reason to be ashamed. We created things. We went out and got it done. The government didn’t give anything. Instead they took it away. And the reason they took it away is because of their own guy. 

I was so mad when a few years later, I saw then Prime Minister Jean Chretien in the news with the Chief of Davis Inlet. Davis Inlet was in the media for their problems with solvent abuse. There it was on television national news, Chretien with his arm around the Chief. The Chief had his head down in shame and subservient position. Chretien promising to help this poor cretin.  It was disgusting. Is that what we are to mainstream people and government, a sound-bite for politicians attempting to look good? This Chief looked like he had no pride, no will, no ability to help himself.  The Chief did have somewhere to turn instead of the government; he could have turned to his own community.  They could have done what Sagkeeng had done and made their own program. They could have used other options. Take the kids under CFS, get CFS to pay for beds for them in their own community. The point is they could have done something for themselves.

I made lots of mistakes and regret things. I do not regret the work we did at the centre and what we accomplished. It is tarnished image now, but that is because people are only looking for the dead goat.  The center broadened a lot of people’s view of the Indian world and gave opportunities that they would not have had. I know my deceased auntie and my deceased cousin went on trip to Las Vegas because they won it from the centre. I know of some people that had no drivers license but with the encouragement of the centre, they went ahead and got their license.  Even establishing credit history or being able to take a vacation. Through employee deduction plans and group trips, people were able to go and take their families to different places. The centre did a lot of things like that for people. Raising money for causes in the community, helping people when they needed it most. But for some reason it was never enough. People saw some one with wealth and they did not have that. I am not saying inequality is right, but it is how the mainstream society works, except for when it comes to Indians. It seems we all want to see a dead goat farm.  :-0 LOL

Community Death the aftermath: The community of Sagkeeng should go after the government for letting Paul Cochrane ruin the centre and should take on the government for their wrongful and continued attack on the community. The government used the police as their pit bulls to intimidate and harass people. 

When the Sagkeeng scandal dust settled down a bit, there was a lot of carnage and casualties. Sagkeeng became the pariah of the Indian community. The government kept leaking stories to the media to keep the story alive. To this Sagkeeng is stuck with the stigma of corruption. Individual members of Sagkeeng are given a wide berth when applying for jobs in any public sector.  The government and private sector shuns the community of Sagkeeng and its members when it comes to doing business or hiring for jobs.  Leadership in the community became very passive and apologetic to the government for the centre. Sagkeeng became a beggar community to the government and the other Native organizations.

The whole community was hurt and many individuals have never recovered from the attack by the government on Sagkeeng. It is very sad because of the aftermath of the centre’s closure. It wasn’t enough for the government to kill economic stimulus in the reserve, they had to try and kill the spirit of the community.  It had almost worked. The community took a beating. People were turning on each other. You had the ‘secret informants’, the absent leadership, the wider community jumping up and point that the treatment that people received was inadequate, ex-employees saying they were against the management all that time, and the media systematically attacking people from the program and community.  I can’t emphasize enough on how devastating the attack on Sagkeeng was. The government did a number and the Indian community bought into it ‘hook line and sinker’. 

On a personal level it really tested me and showed me what people can be like. People that I was friends with, whom I fed at my home, people who called me ‘brother’, people that were friendly acquaintances, some were my colleagues, people who I prayed with and for, people I went to Ceremony with, people I had helped in one form or another; they turned on me. Some were hostile, while others just slithered away. It was disheartening. I am sure it didn’t only happen to me. Lot of people in Sagkeeng were affected. One thing I never did is crumb and be apologetic for being involved with the Centre. I know what took place, what the environment was and what needed to be done.

I was in the media quite a bit because I held a political position at the time. The provincial opposition used the Sagkeeng scandal as a means to attack the government for having me on the payroll. A few people in the reserve said I shouldn’t have the job because of the cruise.  What kind of logic was that? It was the dead goat factor. I felt bad that my wife had to endure the stigma of my bad name. I remember my niece telling me that she was being asked if she knew that guy. How do you think she felt having to admit that it was her uncle. She was just a kid. I can’t imagine what my poor kids went through at the time and what my parents and siblings felt as well. My parents never wavered in their support of me. My dad just asked me, “did you do right?” I told him, yes Dad, I did right. He said, “things will come around”.

I ran into some relatives at a fight club when I was making the news for my involvement with the Centre. My cousin Amil said to me in a gruff voice, “hey, I saw what you did in the paper! Ah, I don’t give a fuck. You’re still my cousin and I love you anyways”. He then put me in a headlock and squeezed.  But you know what, that was one of the best things said to me throughout the ordeal.  While others were shunning me and turning their back on me and some calling me down in the papers, my cousin showed me what it means to be Indian and to be family.

The government seemed mean spirited in its pursuit of the Sagkeeng members. I know because I now owe a half a million dollars to the government for the gym. Can you imagine that, half a million dollars. It doesn’t make sense. The government sued me, Perry, Ken and Keith for the gym. The gym that was built by us .with the full knowledge of government departments INAC and MSB. I guess because of the lawsuit, that I and the others really own the gym and the new addition to the centre. I never did get the opportunity to be heard at the civil trial for the gym.  I was in the midst of my mental breakdown. I did not have the capacity to look after myself, never mind put in a legal defence. I know the lawsuit was an attempt by the government to get access to information to assist them in a criminal trial against Perry.

If you remember the news the government was really hard on people and worked to keep the Sagkeeng scandal in the public eye. The Sagkeeng name became a punishing stick for the government to use against all Indians in Canada. “We don’t want another Sagkeeng situation”, was their rationale for stricter conditions of agreements. All the time the government not mentioning that it is they that do up the Agreements and it is they that approve Agreements.  That they have several steps to implementing an Agreement.  Why is it now that the Agreement system and agreements themselves are seen as flawed? Now the Indians are to pay the price for a system that the government was in control of in the first place. Funny, eh?

Post Script:  Perry has pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is awaiting sentencing. It is interesting that after his charges have been dealt with that the Crown is now charging Darrel Cote with fraud. I think that they waited for the Sagkeeng charges to be dealt with in order to distance the government employees from both cases. They don’t want the public to see the relationship Paul Cochrane had with both agencies. The government does not want people to see the connection as it was their contention that Paul and Patrick were bit players and that they were the ones corrupted. But with the AMA scandal it shows a pattern of Paul’s behaviour and conduct. He was the main guy and the main control person.

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