Canadian Government Pushes First Nation Transparency

26 November 2012

The Canada’s conservative government is pushing through legislation (Bill C-27) to require more financial accountability and transparency by so-called First Nations – the governing  organizations of indigenous peoples.

The bill debated Nov. 23 in the Assembly would require First Nations to file annual financial statements and disclose the remuneration for chiefs and councilors.  The Canadian Taxpayers Federation in 2010 found that 50 chiefs were collecting higher salaries than the prime minister and other examples of high expenditures.

“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 John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, at an event attended by supporters of the bill.

“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.”

The Assembly of First Nations opposes the bill. (See reports in the Vancouver Sun and the Ottawa Citizen.)

According to a National Post article by John Ivison, “No wonder so many native chiefs and councils are resisting the government’s bill aimed at increasing financial transparency for First Nations — the cold light of public scrutiny on their bulging pay packets will be enough to provoke pitchfork rebellions on many reserves.”

Others find irony in the government’s support for First Nation transparency. “While the bill itself is a sensible piece of legislation, its call for greater financial disclosure rings hollow coming from a government which is failing the transparency test itself,” commented Tasha Keiridden, a political writer and broadcaster, in a column pointing to government failures to disclose information.

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