(Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP Kelly Block shakes hands with a constituent. Photo from http://kellyblock.ca/)
APTN National News
OTTAWA–Saskatchewan’s most prominent First Nations organization is backing a Conservative private members bill that, if passed, would force band chiefs and councils to disclose their salaries and expenses.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations said Friday afternoon that they fully endorsed Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP Kelly Block’s bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons earlier in the day.
“I’ve had a quick look at it in terms of what it presents to do. The FSIN, again, fully endorses financial accountability and transparency of all,” said Grand Chief Guy Lonechild. “I think its just another step in the direction to ensure that first nations are accountable and a prime example of how transparent we need to be.”
In an interview with APTN National News, Block said she had spoken to several First Nations leaders in the province about her bill and that she had received their support.
“A colleague of mine and I have been working together and calls were made to a number of First Nations chiefs in Saskatchewan and so far the response has been positive to this legislation,” said Block.
The bill, called the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, would require the publishing of all federally-funded chief and council expenses and salaries by the beginning of August every year. The Minister of Indian Affairs would publish the information if a band refused to comply.
Besides salary, the financial data would include expenses for transportation, accommodation, meals, incidentals and hospitality.
First Nations leaders have the power to set their own salaries and some of them are paying themselves more than provincial premiers and cabinet ministers.
Block said she developed the idea for the bill with fellow Saskatchewan MP Rob Clarke, who represents the riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River.
“I have been made aware that this is a longstanding issue with some First Nations community members,” she said. “There are a number of examples of legislation in place for other elected officials to disclose this kind of information and I believe that it is time to provide similar legislation for members of First Nations band councils.”
The bill also received the support of a northern Ontario grand chief.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stand Beardy said he has no problems with the bill because his organization is already transparent.
“I think it’s only fair to have an idea of where the money is going,” said Beardy.
Block said that Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan supported the bill.
The bill is expected to face second reading at the end of November. It would then be sent to the Commons Aboriginal Affairs committee for debate.
Watch the full report on APTN National News at 6 p.m. ET.