CIBC sues Liard over unpaid debt

The Liard First Nation seems to be in an increasingly precarious situation, and is now being sued by a bank for allegedly failing to repay a line of credit.

The Liard First Nation seems to be in an increasingly precarious situation, and is now being sued by a bank for allegedly failing to repay a line of credit.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce filed a statement of claim in Yukon Supreme Court Nov. 24 seeking more than $134,000 plus interest.

In the court document CIBC claims it granted the First Nation a $200,000 line of credit in February 2014, but the First Nation hasn’t paid it back.

As it stands the interest on the debt accumulates at a rate of $15.44 per day.

LFN Chief Daniel Morris didn’t return calls to the News by press time this morning.

It’s the latest in a series of cases the First Nation is embroiled in.

LFN’s own citizens started a court action against the First Nation in October over concerns the regularly scheduled election won’t take place.

It’s unlikely the election, which is supposed to happen within the next three weeks, will go ahead. Chief and council missed deadlines to set up the required election committee that oversees the election.

A group of citizens, Kaska Concerned about Land Protection and Good Government, tried to organize the election themselves by forming an election committee during a community meeting. But they claim Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada won’t recognize their legitimacy and hand over funds earmarked for the election.

The independent election committee is suing INAC and the First Nation, in an effort to ensure a vote takes place.

LFN has been mired in controversies over missing or misused funds for the past decade, but things seem to have taken a turn for the worse since it was placed under third-party management.

In 2014 the federal government stepped in, fearing the First Nation wouldn’t be able to deliver core services to its citizens.

At the time the First Nation had laid off all of its staff and executive director George Morgan said LFN was in “significant financial distress.”

Morris launched a lawsuit against INAC this April, arguing the federal department failed to meet its obligations to the First Nation. He also contested INAC’s decision to keep the First Nation under third-party management.

In January the Yukon government signed a resource management agreement with LFN, which included a $500,000 payment for “community wellness and capacity development.”

In 2007 former LFN chief Liard McMillan accused Morris of lending himself $250,000 from the First Nation’s bank account when he was chief in 2002. An audit was performed but the RCMP declined to lay charges.

Morgan, who now wants to run for chief against Morris, claims the Canada Revenue Agency seized LFN’s bank account in July because of unpaid taxes totalling $1 million.

The CRA refused to comment and the News hasn’t been able to verify that claim.

On top of the issues some citizens have with the chief, people in Watson Lake are struggling economically.

The successive closures of the Wolverine and Cantung mines impacted the community directly. The First Nation development corporation shuttered.

“The dev corp is just sitting there because there is no economic development, there is no money,” Terry Zabo, the former manager of the development corporation told the News in July.

The development corporation is self-sufficient and doesn’t get transfer payments, she said.

“If there is no mining, there is no money.”

The First Nation itself laid off most of its employees, between 30 and 40 people, in January 2014 before the feds stepped in.

“We have a very divided community,” Liard elder Alfred Chief told the News in July. “And there is no work here.”

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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