Sahtu beneficiaries ‘are deeply concerned’ bringing lawyers in to challenge leaders

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Some beneficiaries of the Sahtu Trust have retained lawyers and written a letter to Premier Bob McLeod, the latest development in a conflict that has included allegations of mismanagement of the trust by the board that oversees it.

The letter was delivered to McLeod May 3 by Ahlstrom Wright Oliver and Cooper LLP and advises McLeod to cancel a May 9 meeting with the Sahtu Secretariat Inc., accusing board members of having conflicting interests.

“Beneficiaries are deeply concerned with the rampant and uncontrolled conflict established by leaders of the Sahtu Secretariat Inc. All leaders are in some form of conflict,” the letter, which is unsigned, states.

“We have retained legal counsel to investigate our concerns and the courts will most likely hold these leaders accountable for the conflict and improper management of the trust.”

Andrew Livingstone, senior cabinet communications advisor, confirmed in an e-mail the GNWT met with the Sahtu Secretariat Inc. on May 9.

“The meeting with the Sahtu Secretariat is part of the memorandum of understanding signed between SSI and the GNWT in June 2015,” Livingstone stated.

The memorandum in question shows both parties are committed to strengthening government-to-government relations and creating a way for leaders to talk about shared concerns, he added.

The GNWT meets with the Sahtu Secretariat Inc. twice per year.

Livingstone said the letter in question was not discussed at the meeting, which included McLeod and all of cabinet, as well as some governmental officials.

“The letter we received was unsigned and the GNWT doesn’t respond to such letters,” he stated.

Ahlstrom Wright Oliver and Cooper LLP did not respond to an interview request. It’s unclear which beneficiaries they represent and what next steps may be taken.

However, beneficiaries Walter Blondin and Raymond Yakeleya have been vocal in the past about their concerns with how the Sahtu Secretariat Inc. has been handling the Sahtu Trust.

In February, Blondin told News/North he wants to see more accountability from the Sahtu Secretariat Inc.

“This lack of accountability has enabled beneficiaries to identify serious deficiencies (in the) actions of the leadership,” he said at the time.

In January, Richard Hardy, a Sahtu lawyer who worked on the land claim, went public with accusations that $25 million that should have been distributed to beneficiaries over the years had been held back.

David Little, executive director for the Sahtu Secretariat Inc., could not be reached for comment by press time.