‘A hindrance’: An Indigenous poet criticizes AMS, UBC finance systems after waiting a month to be paid for her contract work

“[I]‘m so exhausted chasing down invoices … this week was particularly bad,” Samantha Marie Nock, a Cree-Metis writer, tweeted on May 14.

That week, Nock was waiting for an invoice from the AMS. A month earlier, she had facilitated a poetry workshop for the UBC Climate Hub’s Climate Creative Workshop series.

Following the event, Nock had received a document from the AMS outlining her terms of payment: a $300 honorarium would be e-Transferred within three days. But, one month later, she still had not been paid.

“[H]ello @AMS_UBC can you please explain to me why my payment for being an Indigenous facilitator for a workshop hosted by one of your student groups is a month negligent at this point?” she wrote in another tweet from May 14.

The AMS saw Nock’s tweet. After exchanging emails with President Cole Evans and members of the VP Finance office, she was told that her payment would be sent by May 19.

Nock received the honorarium on May 19 as scheduled, but was left frustrated by the slow payment processing time.

“This payment was groceries and paying my phonebill. Slow payment to Indigenous artists means no money in our pockets, that we need to survive off of,” she wrote in a statement to The Ubyssey.

Nock doesn’t blame the student from UBC Climate Hub who originally invited her to lead the workshop — that same student offered to pay Nock from their own bank account — but rather, she blames the AMS.

“[They’re] literally impacting people’s ability to eat and access basic human needs while making a steady salary at a giant institution, why don’t [they] care?”

In a statement sent to The Ubyssey, VP Finance Mary Gan wrote that the AMS regrets that Nock had to wait over a month to get paid. She pointed to the high volume of internal and external reimbursement requests as the cause, but said that the AMS is actively working to address the issue.

“The AMS has been working for the past 12 months on transitioning to a cloud-based accounting system which should see efficiency be improved. This system implementation is scheduled to be completed in Fall 2021,” the statement read.

Gan also wrote that the AMS remains committed to supporting the labour of Indigenous and other marginalized communities.

‘One part of a much larger problem’

Nock said that her experience with the AMS was not an isolated incident.

“The AMS is only one part of a much larger problem of large institutions not respecting the time and labour of Black and Indigenous artists and knowledge keepers,” she said. “I have been contacted by more than a dozen Indigenous people who are currently dealing with late or slow payment from either UBC or the AMS.”

According to Nock, the AMS and UBC’s finance systems are “a hindrance to actually working with Indigenous communities.” Part of the problem is that these organizations ask non-staff contractors for personal information like SIN and direct deposit numbers when processing payments, which Indigenous people may not be comfortable sharing.

“Historically Indigenous communities have been mistreated by the institution (re: unethical research practices, land theft, etc) so there is not a lot of trust,” she said.

Nock also criticized the university’s Indigenous Action Plan for failing to address this bureaucratic obstacle.

“I think this really points to institutions creating policy and lip service, but never actually getting to the core of why [they're] alienating to Indigenous people: they run on systems built by colonialism that they are unwilling to change at their core.”

Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, acknowledged Nock’s frustration with slow payment times in a written statement to The Ubyssey, but said that UBC needs information like SIN for taxation purposes.

Ramsey wrote that the university’s Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) has been working to make the finance system more accommodating to Indigenous people.

“IRSI and VP Finance are nearing the completion of a set of Indigenous Finance Guidelines that will go a long way to resolving the issues,” he said.

He also thanked the Indigenous contractors, advisors, Elders and community members who have contributed to this effort.

The privilege of knowledge and a voice

After finally receiving her honorarium, Nock sent the AMS an email with recommendations as to how to make the student society more welcoming to Indigenous people.

Nock suggested that the AMS hire an Indigenous consulting firm to direct policy changes, participate in a de-colonial practices workshop, publish a statement of accountability to Indigenous people on their website and settle any outstanding payments to BIPOC artists and contractors.

“To not do this work is to continue working within white supremacy and colonialism, you are no better than the systems of which you refuse to dismantle,” her email continues.

Nock emphasized to The Ubyssey that she had the privilege of pre-existing knowledge of the AMS and UBC’s finance systems as an alumni and former staff member.

“I am comfortable and confident navigating these waters … I have institutional knowledge and privilege and I want to use it to make sure people are respected and get paid,” she wrote.

She also said that she would likely still be waiting to get paid had it not been for her social media presence.

“I am privileged in many senses, but one of them is that I do have a larger platform on social media and I was able to get attention with this,” she said.

“I’m really taking this extra far because I am not the only one that is awaiting payment, other artists are too.”

This article has been updated to say that Nock and the AMS had exchanged emails around her late payment. A previous version had said that the parties had met over the matter.