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Monday, January 6, 2014

Financial Transparency Act Needed for Mainstream Government Too

Financial Transparency Act Needed for Mainstream Government Too
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

On January 8, 2014, the Financial Transparency Act (Bill C-27) will be passed into law. This is a Bill that Stephen Harper and his cronies are enacting against First Nations Chiefs and Council in order for them to be held accountable to the members of their reserves. It will involve over 600 First Nations.

The question I have is “If First Nations Chiefs and Council require a financial transparency act (Bill C-27) in order to be held accountable to the members of their reserves, do you not think it would be fair that the mainstream Canadian government consider the same thing for themselves?

According to the Parliament of Canada “Bill C-27, An Act to Enhance the Financial Accountability and Transparency of First Nations (short title: the First Nations Financial Transparency Act), was introduced and received first reading in the House of Commons on 23 November 2011. Bill C-27 was then referred to the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on June 21, 2012. The committee considered witness testimony from 15 October to 5 November 2012. Following clause-by-clause consideration, the bill was reported back to the House with amendments, on 7 November 2012.”(1)

Furthermore “The proposed legislation, which applies to over 600 First Nations communities defined as “Indian bands” under the Indian Act, provides a legislative basis for the preparation and public disclosure of First Nations’ audited consolidated financial statements and of remuneration, including salaries and expenses, that a First Nation or any entity that it controls pays to its elected officials. 

The bill also requires the publication of this information on a website maintained by or for the First Nation, and on the website of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).  Additional provisions of the legislation allow for the application of court remedies and administrative measures to enforce compliance with its requirements."

Bill C-27, once enacted will require First Nations government to publicize audited financial statements and the salaries and expenses of their chiefs and councillors. The legislation's proponents have said its measures will create much needed financial transparency on First Nations reserves, but isn't Stephen Harper and his Conservative government calling the kettle black, when they aren't being upfront and honest with the Canadian public about how they are spending taxpayers monies?

Sure, it is not a secret that there are issues of misappropriation of funds with some reserves and their Chiefs and council, but this misappropriation also happens with the mainstream government. You just need to think about Senator Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau. And what about that $90,000 cheque that was cut by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Nigel Wright, and the cover up that has ensued? 
These questions come to mind when I think about the Financial Transparency Act- “why does it seem like there are always sanctions made against First Nations peoples and their governance but the mainstream government does not feel the same about themselves and how they govern? Shouldn’t they also hold themselves accountable to the general public? Why put financial transparency into action against one sector of the public and not put it on others? 
When I read about Bill C-27, otherwise known as the Financial Transparency Act that will become law on Wednesday January 8, 2014, I felt angry. I felt this way because once again I feel that Stephen Harper and the Conservative government are deflecting away from themselves. They are putting more measures against First Nations peoples and not holding themselves accountable for how they act or govern.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt held a recent press conference and stated “First Nations community members across Canada will come to enjoy the benefits that flow from greater accountability and transparency, and that is more investments, economic opportunities and partnerships.”

Valcourt also states “This legislation recognizes that First Nation members want no less than other Canadians when it comes to knowing how public funds are spent in their communities.”(2) 

Maybe I’m wrong here, but when has the mainstream ever cared about how First Nations spent their funds in their communities, unless it’s to put us down and tell us “we can’t get everything for free when that could be the furthest from the truth?”

The Assembly of First Nations led opposition to this bill., and in testimony before the Senate committee, the organization’s B.C. Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould called the legislation “over-reaching and simplistic,” and not only suggested its underlying goals are increased public scrutiny and greater federal control over First Nations, but that “Bill C-27 is misguided legislation that belies a broken relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations – a relationship that continues to be characterized by federal direction, interference and imposition on First Nation governments.” 

I think that if Bill C-27 is going to be enacted against First Nations Chiefs and Council and their reserves, a bill should be enacted for the mainstream government too. No government is better than the other, and by passing Bill C-27 into law, Stephen Harper and the Conservative government are stating otherwise.



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