The Moricetown Band is one of the few Canadian First Nations groups who are following new transparency rules and have posted their financial statements online.
The First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which was passed by the federal government last year, requires band councils to make public their audited financial statements for the last year within 120 days of their first quarter. That deadline was midnight Tuesday.
“First Nations, like all Canadians, deserve transparency and accountability from their elected officials,” said Bernard Valcourt, minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development, in a prepared statement. “This act is one example of how our government is taking action to ensure First Nations have access to information detailing how public funds are spent in their communities.”
On the Moricetown Band’s Schedule of Salaries document, the top two earners on council are Chief Barry Nikal and councillor Margaret LaRose. Nikal was paid a base salary of $63,466 and LaRose earned $52,806. After honoraria and travel costs, the amounts increase to $76,797 and $55,636, respectively.
According to the financial statement for the year ending March 31, 2014, the Moricetown Band received about $5.44 million from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, about $725,000 from the provincial government and earned about $2.3 million through the gas bar. The band spent almost $3.2 million in wages and benefits over that same time period.
B.C. Assembly of First Nations’ regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a presentation to the Standing Senate Committee in 2013 that First Nations already disclose the information covered in the bill thorough funding agreements with the federal government and said the act will just further strain already tense relations between the two parties.
“Our perspective, as First Nations… is quite different from Canada’s – that is, our peoples have the right – and equally important – the responsibility—to determine our own policy and make our own laws that govern our lands and peoples,” Wilson-Raybould said.
“Make no mistake, First Nations leaders are fully committed and supportive of transparency and accountability to their citizens. Our citizens demand it. Idle No More is not just about holding Canada to account for the plight of our peoples but also our own governments. In 2010, Chiefs-in-Assembly passed Resolution 50-2010: First Nation Governments Demonstrating Accountability, which states their commitment to maintaining transparent and accountable decision-making structures and also confirmed their primary reporting and accountability relationship is to their citizens. Not Canada.”
As of the deadline, the financial information for Northwest B.C. First Nations’ bands, Gitanmaax, Gitanyow, Gitsegukla, Gitwangak, Glen Vowell, Hagwilget Village and Kispiox was not online.
A media relations spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada this morning said a number of submissions came in prior to last night’s deadline and could not say exactly how many have made their financial information public.
On Tuesday, the CBC reported just 20 First Nations bands had met the deadline.
There are 617 First Nations in Canada as defined under the Indian Act who fall under the new transparency rules.
First Nations who do not follow the new act may have federal funding withheld and active grants may be terminated until they comply.