(Saskatoon SK): One of the newest members of the FSIN Executive spoke out about flaws in the federal government’s First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

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FSIN Fourth Vice Chief Heather Bear.

“The FSIN Executive is very supportive of thorough and accurate financial reporting from First Nations leadership back to its Band members,” said Fourth Vice Chief Heather Bear in a press release, speaking on behalf of the FSIN Executive.

“But to impose top-down, heavy handed legislation that implies that First Nations leadership is unwilling to report to their First Nation members is an inappropriate and flawed reaction by the federal government.”

The Act stipulates that all First Nations in Canada must publicly publish their audited financial reports, as well as salaries and other payments to chief and council.

Bear said there are serious flaws with the act and the way it was implemented.

“First, consultation on this Bill was poor, at best. Most First Nations were not consulted even though the legislation is targeted directly at them,” she stated in the release.

“Second, our First Nations’ inherent right to self-determination, as supported by Treaty, is undermined by this Act. And third, the federal government has halted transfers from capital and revenue trust funds. These funds are own source revenues derived from land leases and mineral royalties. The federal Minister simply holds these in trust for the affected First Nations and so for the Minister to withhold these own source revenues that benefit community members at First Nations is highly inappropriate.”

The Act took effect July 29, but due to low compliance, the deadline was extended to November 26. As of December 1, 49 of Canada’s 582 First Nations have not posted their financial reports; nine of those are in Saskatchewan.

First Nations who do not post their financial information risk having funding for “non-essential services and programs” withheld by the government. Treaty4News has asked Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)  to identify what is considered “non-essential” but has not received a response yet.

The First Nations financial statements must be published on a web site, and AANDC also publishes the financial information. You can view it here.

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