The Kanesatake Health Center (KHC) has filled two vacancies on its Board of Directors after two members resigned last fall, the latest move to steady the ship after a period of discord for the centre.
Samantha Pepin and Mary Ann McDonald are serving on an interim basis until they can run for election at the next Annual General Assembly (AGA).
“We are fortunate to currently have a full board with a wide-ranging spectrum of experience in administration as well as the health and social fields,” said Teiawenniserate Jeremy Tomlinson, who has been the centre’s executive director since February 21.
As an employee of the board, Tomlinson was not involved in the selection process, which was facilitated by a Kahnawake consulting business known as S.O.A.R.
According to board president Wanda Gabriel, the organization is pleased with the community members it was able to find to fill the positions.
“Pepin has her youthfulness, and she brings her knowledge about health issues and her experience as a nurse’s aid, which I think is valuable,” said Gabriel.
“Mary Ann has worked with social services in Kanesatake with the provincial system for many years, so she brings a wealth of knowledge on social issues, social solutions, and she’s worked extensively with the elders, so she brings that expertise,” said Gabriel.
McDonald is already determined to run for a full term at the AGA, which will likely take place in the fall.
“We have good people around the table,” said McDonald. “We know what we’re up against to clean up this mess, and we know that we’re going to go forward.”
Gabriel believes bringing in members with different points of view is key to cultivating a board that can manage the organization effectively for all Kanehsata’kehró:non.
“It’s important to have those perspectives, and it brings balance,” said Gabriel. “We want to have a finger on the pulse of the needs of the community and the reality of the community.”
The centre is working to emerge from a contentious period during which it was plagued by sudden personnel shake-ups and accusations of misappropriated funds.
At least one of the board members who resigned last year, Garry Carbonnell, did so because he believed the board was overstepping in its oversight of the executive director.
“The employees at the health centre are the employees of the executive director, and our role is to oversee the role of the executive director, not the positions of everybody else,” said Gabriel.
“As far as I’m concerned, we are following the policies of the board as they are set by the health centre.”
Around the same time as the resignations, the centre’s long-time executive director, Joyce Bonspiel-Nelson, was suspended without pay and later terminated on December 7.
An external forensic audit is currently underway to investigate suspected financial discrepancies at the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), now dismantled, including an alleged overpayment of $2.4 million to less than 10 employees within a year.
The results of this audit and the findings of a completed internal review audit of KHC will soon be presented to the community at a special assembly.
“Those of us who are on the board, we’re strong believers in accountability and transparency,” said Gabriel.
She expressed hope that the special assembly could take place by the end of July.
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door