Bands yet to post financial statements

by Derek Cornet

The set deadline for the federal government’s First Nations Financial Transparency Act came and went with not one of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council’s nine bands complying.

The legislation required all First Nations in Canada to post its financial documents including the remuneration and expenses of their respective chiefs and councils on or before July 29. As of Aug. 6, only 184 bands out of more than 600 throughout Canada had posted their documents.

Birch Narrows First Nation (BNFN) chief Jonathan Sylvestre said his band plans to post its financial information online in November, once an audit of its statements is complete. He threw his support behind the legislation and said it’s important for the administration to be transparent and accountable to its people.

“By November, everyone’s audit should be done,” he said. “For me, when you’re elected to be a leader by the people, you don’t put yourself before your people.”

Sylvestre said the information such as the salaries of chief and council has always been available to its membership, adding it’s included in the band’s yearly audit which also discloses payments for honorariums and travel. He went on to say some chiefs are unhappy to be obligated to follow through with the law, but the leadership at BNFN agreed with the Act’s intended purpose.

Also in favour of the Transparency Act is English River First Nation chief Marie Black. She said her band was also in the midst of an audit and that financial documents were forthcoming. Black echoed Sylvestre’s sentiments about the legislation, noting the principles of accountability and transparency are paramount.

“As chief, I believe in being transparent to our people,” she said. “I’m not ashamed to show what leadership has been remunerated for.”

Black said, however, the amounts may come as a surprise to some members. Being a band in the North and with obligations to travel extensively, she said dollars spent on travel and mileage will inflate compensation in addition to wages. Black also said with the band’s company Des Nedhe Development Inc. operating out of Saskatoon, business trips are made frequently.

“Some bands have to travel south and that will influx their costs,” she said. “You can’t just sit at home and miss the business.”

Last week – due to the high number of bands who failed to comply – the federal government announced any band that didn’t do so by the end of November would face legal action such as the withholding of funds. For bands that refuse, they could be subjected to a court order forcing them to adhere to the Act.


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