APTN National News
WINNIPEG–A bill requiring First Nations bands to publicly disclose the pay and expenses of their politicians is set to become law, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said during a press conference in Winnipeg.
The First Nations Financial Transparency Act, also known as Bill C-27, has passed the Senate and will receive Royal Assent sometime Wednesday.
“This legislation recognizes that First Nation members want no less than other Canadians when it comes to knowing how public funds are spent in their communities,” said Valcourt. “They want assurances that their governments manage resources to improve the lives of the people they serve.”
The new law will impact about 580 First Nations under the Indian Act requiring them to publish chief and band councillor salaries and expenses on the Internet.
The law will also require First Nations to publish their annual audited financial statements by July 29, 2014.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo blasted the new law, saying it “would not support” accountability and gives “more power to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.”
Atleo said the AFN opposed the bill at every stage because it did little to change the broken relationship between Ottawa and First Nations people.
“We do not support unilateralism that further entrenches us in a system that doesn’t work for our people or Canada,” said Atleo. “The answers lie in our communities and with our citizens, not with more control from Ottawa…Canada needs to listen and to act.”
The genesis of the bill began in October 2010 when Conservative Saskatchewan MP Kelly Block introduced a private member’s bill aimed at increasing the financial transparency of First Nations governments. Block’s bill, however, died after the minority Harper government fell in March 2011.
The Harper government, however, formed a majority following the federal election and in the Speech from the Throne indicated its plans to follow through with the aims of Block’s bill. The current version of the Act was introduced in November 2011.
A report on by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation found that 82 band chiefs and councillors made more than the prime minister’s $317,574 salary in 2008-2009. In Alberta, 47 chiefs and councillors made more than the prime minister that year.
First Nations chiefs passed a resolution in 2010 agreeing to publish their salaries and expenses, but they blasted Block’s original bill, calling it “unnecessary” and “heavy-handed.”