Annual Salary for First Nations Chiefs

First Nations Canada

Under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which the Canadian government passed in 2013, aboriginal bands (about 580 bands covered under this law) are required to post their chiefs’ earnings on the federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development website in November 2014. Only 56% of them the First Nation Chiefs submitted their records so far.

Key Findings of First Nations Chiefs Incomes Survey

  1. Incomes earned on reserves are NOT subject to income tax (i.e., tax-free)
  2. In 2013, at least 35 chiefs made more than $100,000 base salary, excluding expenses and other special pay.
    — Chief’s untaxed income of $100,000 is equivalent to regular Canadian taxable income of about $150,000
  3. The median salary was around $60,000 between $50,000 and $75,000.
    — Chief’s untaxed income of $60,000 is equivalent to regular Canadian taxable income of about $80,000
  4. At least 105 chiefs collected more than $100,000 salary if other expenses and benefits are included.

Hot Discussion – Number Crunching Salaries

Chief Ron Giesbrecht of the tiny Kwikwetlem First Nation in British Columbia’s lower mainland took home an eye-popping $914,219 in 2013. The band has a population of only 82!!! OMG! (See the income table below.)

For more than two decades, Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation, up in oil sands country north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, collected a salary of $644,441 in the year 2013. The band only has a population of 826, of which 396 members live on its reserve and 430 live elsewhere. In comparison, the nearby Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, has a population of more than 100,000 and pays its mayor $127,671. How many years has Boucher collected a $600,000 tax-free salary?!?! OMG! (See the salary table below.)

Chief Darren Whitford of O’Chiese First Nation in Alberta, with an on-reserve population of 842, earned $164,453 and charged $100,778 in travel and other expenses. By contrast, Mayor Fred Nash of nearby Rocky Mountain House, with a population of about 7,500, made about $42,000, on which, of course, he paid income tax.

Chief Paul Sam of Shuswap Indian Band in BC, with 87 residents, earned $202,413 in 2013. Many Shuswap reserve residents have asked questions for more than a decade about the band’s spending, even going so far as to occupy the band office demanding answers that, until now, went unanswered. The houses are in disrepair. Band members are living with no water and sewer!!!

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Tobias Simmons is a personal finance blogger born in Ontario and based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He's no Doctor of Science or financial expert but is a self-taught student giving advice for the average peer.