News

Government taking First Nations to court over transparency law

BY LINDSAY BRISCOE

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) Minister Bernard Valcourt announced on Dec. 8 that the federal government is taking court action against five First Nations that have not complied with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

At the time of press, Valcourt’s press secretary Erica Meekes said 538 of 582 Nations had complied to date—leaving a total of 44 left to comply. However, Thunderchild, Ochapowace, and Onion Lake First Nations in Saskatchewan, and Sawridge and Athabasca Chipewyan, in Alberta were the five whose leadership had expressly said its intention not to comply, prompting the government to issue court orders against them.

Cold Lake First Nation in Alberta was initially on the list, but Meekes confirmed it has since complied.

The act requires First Nations defined as an Indian band under the Indian Act to make their audited consolidated financial statements and a Schedule of Remuneration and Expenses of chief and council available on a website as well as to their members. The First Nations Financial Transparency Act became law in March 2013 and, after a 120-day deadline extension, the deadline to comply was Nov. 26 at midnight.

Meekes says the government started taking action against all First Nations that had not complied by the deadline by withholding non-essential funding. She says the AANDC has reached out to communities to make sure they have the support they need to comply.

The act has been met with mixed reviews from First Nations. Some say it’s just an extension of the financial statements they had already been required to submit to the federal government, while others have called it “paternalistic” and the Assembly of First Nations has said it is “heavy-handed” and has urged the Aboriginal community to rise up against the act.

Wabauskang, Chapleau Ojibway, Fort Severn, Gull Bay, Kashechewan, Weenusk, and Whitesand First Nations were the First Nations in Ontario that had not complied by the time of press.

The Northern Sun News arranged an interview with Wabauskang First Nation Chief Martine Petiquan, but was subsequently unable to reach her for comment by the time of press.

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