The vast majority of First Nations chiefs and band councils have yet to post their financial statements online under new transparency rules passed by the federal government last year.
Under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, First Nations leaders have 120 days after the first quarter to make public their audited financial statements for the last fiscal year, including the salaries and expenses of their chiefs and councillors.
As of Monday night, on the eve of the deadline, the government confirmed that 20 First Nations out of more than 600 had complied with the new rules.
First Nations already have to produce their financial statements as part of their funding agreements with the federal government, but this is the first time they are being asked to post the information on a website.
Smaller First Nations without a website can ask larger First Nations organizations to post their financial statements for them.
Under the new rules, the minister in charge must also publish the documents on the department's website.
First Nations who refuse to comply could be subject to a court order or see funds withheld from them.
Transparency and accountability
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt reminded First Nations of the new rules in a written statement last Friday.
“First Nations, like all Canadians, deserve transparency and accountability from their elected officials," he said.
"With increased access to basic financial information, community members can make more informed decisions about the financial management and reporting of their elected officials."
"First Nations that have yet to submit their audited consolidated financial statements and schedules of remuneration and expenses for chiefs and councillors are encouraged to submit the documents as soon as possible. My department will continue to post as the documents are received," Valcourt said.
The Assembly of First Nations does not support the new legislation.
The AFN regional chief for B.C., Jody Wilson-Raybould, has told Parliament on more than one occasion that many chiefs resent the added measure.
"Chiefs were clear in their assertion that the proposed measures are both heavy-handed and unnecessary and they suggest that First Nation governments are corrupt, our leaders are not transparent and consequently need to be regulated by Ottawa," she said a year before the act became law.
The government has said all along it was First Nations members who approached Ottawa asking for greater transparency "as a result of difficulty obtaining financial information from their elected local officials."
Although there may be a delay between the time First Nations submit their documents to the government and the time they are posted online, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has committed to publishing them "without delay."
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