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Mount Currie Band wants share of sponsorship money

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Band says it will sue unless it receives $40,000

The Mount Currie Indian Band is threatening to sue the government of Canada for $40,000 it says it was promised through the same federal sponsorship program that is currently fuelling a politically charged scandal.

"We’re looking at all of our options right now to retrieve the money without going through the courts," said Chief Leonard Andrew of the Mount Currie Indian Band.

"Of course we know there’s a lot of controversy over the funding source right now, which is why we said (the lawsuit) was probably the only way to get our money back."

According to a story that appeared in the Vancouver Sun last week, the band was given written confirmation of a $40,000 commitment by the federal government to sponsor the Mount Currie Colours Festival in October of 2001. The weather didn’t co-operate and as a result the event was a bust, drawing just 30 people. It was also overshadowed by the events of September 11 less than a month earlier.

Meanwhile the band already spent the money it was promised on radio and newspaper advertisements, free festival T-shirts and a Government of Canada banner that was raised behind the stage.

The band wants that money back to restart a cancelled housing program in the community.

While the federal government confirms that the money was promised, they said the band failed to provide a visibility plan before and after the event to ensure that the government’s contributions were recognized. A letter sent to MP John Reynolds by Public Works Minister Stephen Owen last month said the attendance of the event was far from expectations.

That letter contradicted another letter sent to the band on Oct. 24, 2001 by Pierre Tremblay, executive director of the sponsorship program, that stated Communications Canada was pleased to sponsor the event.

The government later agreed to pay $6,000 based on the number of spectators, but the band didn’t respond to that offer.

Chief Andrew confirmed that the band’s lawyers were looking into the legalities of the issue, but said that a lawsuit would likely be a last resort.

"It’s too early at this stage for the lawyers to come down. We have to see whether the government will pay us back in full, in part or not at all. We’ll react as soon as we find out," he said.

In February Auditor General Sheila Fraser went public with her account of a controversial advertising and sponsorship program by the federal government’s Public Works Department. Among other things she found that $100 million in fees and commissions was paid to various communications and advertising agencies with allegedly friendly ties to the government.

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