Confusion over the First Nations Financial Transparency Act

According to Aboriginal Affairs, nothing but good will come from the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. They say the Act will help create stronger, effective and more self-sufficient communities.

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AANDC Minister Valcourt announces the First Nations Financial Transparency Act on March 27, 2013.

Not only will it help First Nation communities become prosperous, the Department says the Act will bring transparency and accountability to First Nation members and to Canadians at large.

The Act received Royal Assent on March 27 and forces First Nation governments to publish their annual audited financial statements, including Chiefs and councilors’ salaries and expenses.

Joseph Quesnel welcomes the new legislation. He’s a policy analyst at the Frontier Centre Public Policy and says First Nation leaders needn’t worry about exposing their goods.

Quesnel points to Chief Glenn Hudson of Peguis First Nation as a prime example of how the Act should work. Hudson is a First Nation leader who once had an exorbitant salary but is now earning a modest pay cheque after the band’s finances were made public.

Between 2008-09, Chief Hudson reportedly earned more than $200,000.

“All it took was one unveiling of the information and he reduced it,” says Quesnel. “It didn’t irreparably damage him.” Chief Hudson was recently re-elected.

But not everyone thinks the legislation is necessary.

Prior to the Act, many communities such as Sawridge, Fishing Lake, and Wabigoon Lake First Nations already had their own mechanisms in place that provided a level of transparency and accountability to their members.

After every audit, the Wabigoon Lake First Nation presents the information at their annual general meeting. The audit is also available on an individual basis to those who request it.

“That process has been there for years,” says Chief Cantin.

But some say the First Nation Transparency Act actually goes against Canada’s Privacy Act, meant to place limits on the government’s ability to disclose personal information.

Two court rulings — Sutherland (1994) and Montana (1988) — reaffirmed such limits when it came to First Nations financial statements.

Kris Klein is an Ottawa-based privacy lawyer who says the First Nations Transparency Act is in direct conflict with the spirit of the Privacy Act.

“I don’t know if you want to call it a loop hole or not but the Privacy Act says that the government or whoever has the information can disclose personal information if another law requires it,” says Klein.

“As soon as they passed this piece of legislation there won’t be a conflict with the Privacy Act.” photo 1

Chief Cantin believes the transparency act has its roots in a scathing report released by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) in 2010. The CTF published documents allegedly showing that some First Nation Chiefs were earning more than the Prime Minister of Canada.

Brad Regehr from the Canadian Bar Association says the CTF’s report was nothing more than inaccurate data and computations — but he says the Canadian government bought it.

“The concern was to get good public relations out of this to make it look like they [the government] were doing something,” says Regehr.

“This is simply an easier reaction to some criticism they got from the Canadian Taxpayer Federation and maybe some other groups who painted this alarmist picture.”

Regehr is still left wondering why the government wanted to pass the Act given their existing powers under ‘contribution agreements.’ First Nation governments receive band funding for community governance and delivery of services provided by Aboriginal Affairs. The details of that funding is laid out in the ‘contribution agreements.’

If a First Nation government does not comply with the rules outlined in the contribution agreements, Aboriginal Affairs can impose conditions, claw back funding and even appoint third-party managers. Attawapiskat First Nation was at the receiving end of this back in 2011.

“It seems that some of the attempt is to embarrass people,” says Regehr.

Klein says it speaks to the political landscape.

“Maybe it has to fit in with this particular government’s belief in open government and transparency in the way public money is spent,” wonders Klein.

But for some, the public tax dollar argument is up for debate. Chief Cantin says the money First Nation communities receive is from resources extracted from their traditional territories.

“There’s no resource revenue sharing ever since the treaties were signed and I feel the treaties were broken,” says Chief Cantin.

“If we had our legal share of all the resources that has been extracted, we wouldn’t have this relationship, we’d have our own legislative body to manage that money.”

But Quesnel disagrees.

He says number treaties in particular were based on surrendering title and privileges to non-reserve lands for the sake of non-Aboriginal settlement.

“There is historic evidence that First Nations signatories at the time understood they were giving up land and resource rights to non-reserve lands when they signed treaties,” says Quesnel.

While more transparency mechanisms tighten for First Nation governments, Regehr is left wondering if more needs to be done at the federal level.

“It seems kind of hypocritical in light of all sorts of news reports as for an example, now we’re paying way more for the navy’s new ships than any other country would pay or billions of dollars of anti-terrorism funding not being accounted for,” says Regehr.

As of July 29, 2014, First Nation governments will be required to disclose their audited financial statements.

“I am definitely hoping for the best,” says Quesnel.

“It will be interesting to see what happens once the information is available and how the members will response to that. I think it will put the ball in their court.”

2 thoughts on “Confusion over the First Nations Financial Transparency Act

  1. sliaMMON FIRST NATIONS NEESD TRANSPERENCWEY. TO ALL THE PEOPLE OF SLIAMMON. THEY HAVE SECRET MEETINGS WITHOUT THE PEOPLE OF THE SLIAMMON PEOPLE, THEY HAVE THIER GROUP OF PEOPLE, AND THEY ALL HAVE JOBS, YEAR AFTER YEAR. THEY SPENT TWENTY FIVE MILLION, ON TREATY NEGOIATING, BY GOING TO THE STAATES, TO GET VOTES, PEOPLE WHO HAVE A RIGHT TO VOTE IN THE STATES, THAT ARE FIRST NATIONS, SO THEY SAY THEY CAN VOTE HERE IN SLIAMMON, AND SOME , OR MOST HAVENT BEEN HERE OVER THIRTY YEARS, BUT THEY HAVE THE RIGHT , TO VOTE, ON OUR SATAS . OUR LAND , OUR RIGHTS, PEOPLE WERE PAID , FOR A YES VOTE , FOR TREATY. YOU HAVE BROTHERS, IS MOTHER SON SIGNING CHECKS TOGETHER , THERES A HUGE CONFLICT OF INTEREST. THE UNITED ST S, SISTERS, HUSBAND WIVES, MOTHER SON WHOS OUR CHIEF CLINT WILLIAMS , SIGNING CHECKS TO GETHER. SO THE FIRST NATIONS HAVE DUAL VOTING RIGHTS, I THINK THATS SO UNFAIR, SLIAMMON FIRST NATIONS NEED , TO SHOW PROVE, THAT THEY HAVE A SATAS CARD, TO VOTE IN PERSON, THEY WERE SENDING IN MAIL IN BALLOTS, WE WERENT ALOUD TO SEE THE SATAS CARDS, THAT PEOPLE WERE HANDED OUT, A PERSON GOT FIRED, FOR HABNDING THEM OUT. SO THEY MOVED THE SATAS LIST TO BAND OFFICE, AND WASNT AVAILABLE TO THE PEOPLE, THE PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW, THEY HAD DECEASED PEOPLE ON BAND VOTING LIST. SO MUCH CORRUPTION. PEOPLE HAVE TWO THEREE JOBS, THEIR A COUNCEL, A CEO, A NEGOITING PERSON, THEY ARE ALSO INVOLVED IN FORESTEREY YUR A CHIEF, A COUNCLER, A FORESTEREY BOSS,AND ALL ARE TREATY NEGOITERS. YUR WIFE WORKS AT TREATY , YUR HUSBAND WORKS AT BAND OFFICE TREATY NEGOITERS, YUR BROTHER IS A NEGOITING PERSON, SAYS HES ALSO A LAWYER, DONT KNOW IF HE HAS FULL QULFACASTION AS A LAWEY, HIS SISTER IS A TREATY NEG, SHES ALSO MANAGER FOR TREATY, THEIR OTHER SISTER IS A TRETY NEGOING PERSON THE HATCHERY HAS BROTHER DOWN THER HES FOR TREATY , THEY ARE ALL CONNECTED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. SO TREATY WAS VOTED DOWN, BUT THEY WERE STILL HAVING SECRET MEETINGS FOR TREATYN WITHOUT ALL THE PEOPLE. THEY WERE PAYING THE PEOPLE TO GOO TO VICTORIA, TO SIGN PAPERS WITH CHIRSTY CLARK, IF YUR THAT GOOD THEN WHY DO U HAVE TO PAY THE PEOPLE FOR A YES VOTE FOR TREATY. IF YUR GOOD PEOPLE WILL VOTE U IN , BUT THERE WAS BRIBERY, WE DID A BLOCKCADE TO STOP TREATY , WE ENDED IN SUMPREME COURT WITH A JUDGE SAVAGE, AND HE ALOUD THE VOTE TO GO THROUGH , THE POWELL RIVER RCMP WERE VERY RESPECTFUL AT OUR BLOCKCADE. OUR CHIEF RAN THROUGH OUR BLOCKCADE, SAID NONE OF U TEN ARE GOING TO STOP US, WE HAVE WAY MORE MONEY THEN U GUYS, WELL THERE WASNT TEN PEOPLE, WE HAD A SIGN PETITION, OF TWO HUNDRED FIFTY PEOPLE, PLUS PEOPLE HIDINHG IN THE BUSH , SAYING WAY TO GO, WE CANT COME TO BLOCKCADE OR WE WONT GET OUR SOCIAL ASSITANE, PEOPLE IN BAND OFFICE WERE TREATED LIKE DIRT , WERENT ALOUD, IN MEETING, IGNORED, BECAUSE THEY WERENT FOR TREATY , PEOPLES JOBS WAS ON THE LINE, IF YUR FOR TREATY.ANYWAYS WE WERE THE BUTT HOLES WE HAVE NO BRAINS, WE DID THE BLOCKCADE, AS THEIR IS SO MUCH CORRUPTION HERE IN SLIAMMON FIRST NATIONS WE HAVE A HOUSING PROBLEM HERE FOR THE ELDERS, THE DISABILITY, AND ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE ON SOCIAL ASSITANCE, BUT THERES NO HOUSING MONIES, YET THEY DO A RENOVATION OF A HUNDRED AND SO , ON A PERSONS HOUSE, U CAN TELL WHOS FOR TREATY, OR WHO WAS BOUGHT, BY HOUSES, THERE R DEPLEATED HOUSING, AND MONIES ARE RECEIVED HERE IN ALL NAFIRST NATIONS, BUT NO HOUSING MONIES, THEN RIGHT NOW THERE BUILDING A CEMENT WALL IN FRONT OF SLIAMMON FIRST NATIONS, SUPPOSE TO COST 1.4 MILLION DOLLORS WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE IN HOUSINGG, THEY WANT TO BUILD A LONG HOUSE, WHAT ABOUT THE POORER PEOPLE THEY HAVE NO RIGHTS IN HOUSING. SEWER LINE BUST ONIN A HOUSE ON HIGHWAY, THEY GET A PERSON TO COME AND LOOK AT IT, AND ITS ROTTON, NEEDS TO BE FIXED,THEIR ANSWER WE HAVE NO HOUSING MONIES , YET THEY RECEIVE MONIES FOR HOUSING FOR THE PEOPLE ON SOCIAL ASSITANCE AND DISABILITY, FROM THE GOVERMENT, THEY CONDEM HOUSES AND THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT ARE LIVING IN BACLOR SUITES, NO ROOM FOR THEIRSTUFF, AS THEY ARE ONE BEDROOM AND THEIR LIVING ROOM AND KITCHEN ARE ONE. THERE IS A BUDGET AND DECISION PLAN FOR ALL FIRST NATIONS BUT NOT IN SLIAMMON PEOPLES. NOONE KNOWS THEIR RENT, OR IF THEY OVERPAID HYDRO, SOME PEOPLE CANT GET OIL, ALL SOCIAL ASSITANCE PEOPLE GET TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY A MONTH, YET U HAVE OTHERS WITH TWO THREE JOBS ALL LIVING IN SAME HOUSE SOME, MOST. AND THEY GO CLAMM DIGGING FOR EXTRA, AND ARE PENALIZED FOR THAT EXTRA MONEY, IS THAT FAIR, NOT IN MY EYES, YOU HAVE PEOPLE WITH TEN KIDS AND GET CHILD TAX BENIFIT, AND ARE PENALIZED AS THEY RECEIVE CHILD TAX BENIFIT, AND THAT S GOVERMENT MONIES TO THOSE PEOPLE, GOVERMENT FREE MONIES, SO BECAUSE U GERT THAT AMOUNT ON CHIL TAX BENIFIT, U R ONLY ENTITKLED TO THREE HUNDRED, AND THIRTY A MONTH WITH TEN KIDS AND MOTHER AND FATHER, NOW THERE IS SO MUCH WRONG WITH THESE PICTURES. ELDER LIVES IN A HOME , ELECTIC WIRE HANGING AROUND HIS HOUSE , STRAPPED OUTSIDE HIS HOUSE, LAYING ON THE GROUND OUTSIDE HIS HOUSE THATS SO SAD , AS WE DONT HAVE FUNDING GOR HOUSING, HES A ELDER, IT NEEDS TO BE FIXED BUT NO NONTHING IS FIXEDJUST WHAT THEY WANT TO FIX.PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT THEY RECEIVE THESE MONIES FOR THESE PEOPLE. THEY ARE MAKING TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND A YEAR PLUS, FIFTY THOUSAND HOUNIOURIUM MONIES OUR CHIEF FOR BEEN A CHIEF A COUNCEL A NEG, A FORESTERY NBOSS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BUT ALL TRUE , WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE MAKING YEARLY BUT ONE HUSBAND WAS BRAGGING HOW MUCH MONEY HES WIFE IS MAKING, AS A NEG, AND THEY ALL GOT PAID THE TWENTY FIVE MILLION GONE BUT NONE OF THE PROVERTEY PEOPLE GOT HELP, ONLY THE ONES THEY BOUGHT , BRIBERED , AND PROMISED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, ITS CORRUPTED HERE THE RICH GET RICHER , AND U SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO BUTY VOTES, THE PEOPLE WILL VOTE FOR U AS LONG AS THEY ALL SEE WHAT U DO FOR THE WHOLE NATION OF PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE SPECIAL PEOPLE, THEY ARE ALL RICH OF OUR OWN PEOPLE, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED , BUT TRUE A FULL INVESTAGATION TALKING TO ALL THE PEOPLE OF SLIAMMON FIRST NATIONS, LET THE GOVERMENT HEAR FROM EACH PERSON IN WHAT RELLY HAPPENS HERE , AND THE FOVORTISUM, HERE PEOPLE WITH BEAUTIFUL HOUSES AND TOYS WHILE THE REST STRUGGLE, IT IS COMPLETELEY WRONG AND CORRUPT., SELLING CP LAND FOR A DOLLOR WHILE THE REST OF THE PEOPLE WHO PAID MONTHLY TO THE BAND BY THE GOVERMENT, WILL NEVER OWN THESE HOUSES, BUT THEY WILL. THE CHIEF CLINT WILLIAMS SAID TIO ME I DONT GIVE A F ABOUT YUR WILL IM THE CHIEF I CAN DO WHAT I WANT I HAVE A WILL A LETTER FROM INDIAN AFFAIRS, SAYING WHAT BELONGS TO MY GRANDMOTHER AS I WAS A HALF BREED , SO YES SHE LEFT THOS PROPERTEY. AND I IN TIME WILL HAVE NO RIGHTS , THEY WILL DESTROY THOSE RIGHTS AS THEY ARE MAKING THEIR OWN LAW BOOK FOR ALL SLIAMMON FIRST NATIONS, SO PEOPLE WILL LOOSE THEIR COP LAND , AND IF U CANT PAY U MOST LIKELY WILL BE REMOVED, ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONIES ITS NOT ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE SLIAMMON FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE,. ID LOVE THE GOVRMENT PEOPLE TO COME AND SIT AND TALK TO EACH PERSON ALONE, WITOUT A AUDIENCE AS THEY WILL HEAR SO MUCH, ABOUT THE MONIES AND CORRUPTION, THE MONIES HERE ARE RECEIVED FOR ALL THE PEOPLE FROM THE GOVERMENT, THE SLIAMMON FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE ARE BEHIND IN RENT , SO THEY TAKE ALL THE PEOPLES MONIES AND USE THAT FOR PAYING BILLS , ITS NOT THE PEOPLES FAULT THERE IS SO MUCH WRONG HERE , AND ITS NOT ABOUT AOUR PEOPLE ITS ALL ABOUT THE WEALTH THEY ARE ALL GETTING.

  2. First Nations Communities in Canada are still under the direct control of the Department of Indian Affairs. Acts after acts are imposed, and im glad this act is in place so we can see the the deficiency in funding in comparison to Canadian and immigrants. This could be a building block for us to improve our communities based on facts and not assumptions. And this is not tax payers money. I also would like to see the interest to the initial friendship treaty of a pound of flour and five dollars. I need my flour and I need my five dollars with interest from the Queen.

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