OTTAWA – John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, is calling on all Parliamentarians to support the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. Minister Duncan was joined by members of First Nations from across Canada who will benefit from the Act on Tuesday as well as by representatives of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).
“First Nation community members deserve the same level of transparency and accountability from their leadership as Canadians expect of their federal, provincial and municipal leaders,” said Minister Duncan. “That’s why we’re calling on all Parliamentarians to unanimously support the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which responds to demands from First Nation community members for greater assurance that their leaders are using public funds to improve their communities and create economic opportunities.”
“Financial accountability is important for open and effective government. We see many great examples of open and accountable governments in First Nations’ communities across Canada,” said Kelly Block, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon–Rosetown–Biggar. “Through the Act, our Government is ensuring that all First Nations’ community members across the country will have access to the same level of information.”
Parliamentary Secretary and Kenora MP Greg Rickford stated in the House of Commons, “Our government is responding to first nations’ calls for greater accountability and transparency from their elected officials. The first nations financial transparency act would ensure that first nations have access to basic financial information such as the salaries and expenses of their chiefs and councils, and increase investor confidence for economic development on reserve. I urge the NDP and the Liberals to stop standing in the way, do the right thing, and vote in favour of this great legislation”.
“We’ve been pushing hard for this legislation for three years so we’re quite pleased the government has responded to our concerns,” said CTF Prairie Director Colin Craig. “The bottom line is every politician in the country – federal, provincial, municipal and Aboriginal politicians, should have to disclose their pay to the public.”
Craig along with band members from the Squamish First Nation (B.C.), the Peguis First Nation (MB), the Tataskweyak Cree Nation (MB) and the Odanak First Nation (QC) met with the Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Development to discuss concerns from a grassroots perspective.
“Bill C-27 is important to grassroots people as it will allow band members access chief and council salaries without fear of threats or reprisals. If First Nations want to govern themself they should be accountable and transparent as all other levels of government who make their salaries accessible for the public,” said Phyllis Sutherland – Peguis Accountability Coalition.
“I want accountability for all first nations in Canada. Our politicians need to be held accountable too,” said Solange Garson, a recently elected councilor at Tataskweyak Cree Nation. “Bill C-27 is something a lot of grassroots support. We want transparency like everyone else.”
“My spouse and I have been harassed, my house vandalized and members of our local accountability organization have been intimidated for speaking out,” said Michael Benedict, member of the Coalition of Abenaki Citizens for a Just, Transparent and Accountable Abenaki Government. “Local elected officials were afraid we would empower Abenaki citizens to take a stand against abuse of power, misappropriation of public money and unavailability of information. C-27 will help improve transparency.”
“When grassroots people request financial information from band council they are often threatened with support cuts from the band and are shunned in the community,” said Bev Brown of the Squamish First Nation. “C-27 will help band members because it will allow them to view the material online and anonymously.”
Last fall, the Harper Government introduced the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which would require First Nations to publish the salaries and expenses of their leaders, as well as their audited consolidated financial statements. While self-governing First Nations already have rules around financial disclosure, and some First Nations voluntarily disclose financial information, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act would ensure that all First Nations are held to the same standard of transparency and accountability that Canadians have come to expect of their government.
“We’ve been pushing hard for this legislation for three years so we’re quite pleased the government has responded to our concerns,” said CTF Prairie Director Colin Craig. “The bottom line is every politician in the country – federal, provincial, municipal and Aboriginal – should have to disclose their pay to the public.”
The Act would not set salary levels for band leadership, nor would it require individual businesses owned by the band to publish detailed financial statements.
Federal, provincial and municipal governments have all introduced legislation and rules to make more information available to Canadians, enabling them to make informed decisions about their leadership. First Nation governments operating under the Indian Act are now the only governments in Canada that do not have a legislated requirement to make basic financial information public. The First Nations Financial Transparency Act would address this need.
If passed into law, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act would also give investors the confidence they need to partner with First Nations to create economic opportunities, jobs and the kind of growth that will contribute to healthier, more self-sufficient First Nation communities.