On December 18, the federal government announced that it would cease activities relating to Bill C-27, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, and work with First Nations on a new approach is a welcome move that will result in a better approach to real accountability by all parties.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, stated the she has “directed her Department is going to cease all discretionary compliance measures related to the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, …reinstate funding withheld from First Nations under these measures and… suspend any court actions against First Nations related to the Act.” The Minister committed to “engage in discussions on transparency and accountability that are based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership and that build towards a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples.”
“We welcome this announcement by the Minister and look forward to working with the government on a new, better approach aimed at real accountability,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Bellegarde. “First Nations fully support accountability but Bill C-27 is a flawed piece of legislation that does not respect our rights and must be repealed. Today’s announcement gives us an opportunity to work together on a better approach where First Nations are accountable to their citizens first and the government is accountable to the public for its funding to First Nations.”
“The AFN has proven in the past that it can work on approaches to accountability that benefit everyone,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We all want to ensure that funding is used effectively and efficiently, that programs and initiatives are improving the lives of our people. This is not just about accountability for spending, this is about accountability for results. This is about building stronger First Nations governments and closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and Canadians. That has to be the basis for our work going forward.”
National Chief Bellegarde noted that in 2005 the AFN began working on an “Accountability for Results” initiative with the Office of the Auditor General, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the Treasury Board. The initiative was making progress but was terminated by the Conservative government when elected in 2006.
The First Nations Financial Transparency Act, Bill C-27, was passed against numerous objections from First Nations The Bill is a flawed approach that, amongst many problems, forces First Nations to disclose details about own source revenue from band operated businesses and enterprises that hurt their ability to compete with other businesses. It was developed and imposed without the involvement of First Nations and fails to meet the government’s legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations and is currently the subject of legal action from First Nations. The AFN called for a full review of all legislation and policies relating to First Nations to ensure respect for rights and consistency with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The government has agreed and discussions are underway on next steps.