cbc.ca (© Copyright: (C) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html#Rss)
Updated: Wed, 06 Aug 2014 17:59:47 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

First Nations Transparency Act holdouts given 120 days to post financial data



Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, October 21, 2013. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, October 21, 2013. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

The federal government says First Nations bands have until the end of November to comply with new transparency rules that came into effect last week, or risk losing government funding.

The First Nations Financial Transparency Act requires that all bands post online their audited financial statements for the last fiscal year, including the salaries and expenses of their chiefs and councillors.

Bands that have yet to post their financial statements will begin receiving "several formal reminders" to do so, the office for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt told CBC News.

"After 120 calendar days, if there is no resolution, for bands that are refusing to comply with the law, the government will take action according to the provisions of the law, which could include withholding of funding."

First Nations bands that refuse to post their financial statements online could also be subject to a court order forcing them to comply with the Transparency Act.

The disclosures posted online have revealed that Ron Giesbrecht, chief of the Kwikwetiem First Nation in B.C., earned nearly $1 million last year.

His salary was $84,800, but he received a bonus of $800,000 stemming from a land deal with the B.C. government. 

Giesbrecht's contract has since been renegotiated and the bonus removed.

Giving First Nations band members 'access'

To date, the department has posted the financial documents for 184 First Nations bands and will continue to post the audited statements as they receive them. The statements for another 40 First Nations will be posted shortly, as soon as department officials are finished reviewing the information sent to them.

It is unclear how many of the more than 600 First Nations in Canada have complied with the new rules.

Under the new act, First Nations must post their audited statements on their own websites or ask larger First Nations organizations to post their financial statements for them. In cases where that isn't possible, First Nations can also ask the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to post it for them.

"This law was put in place to ensure that First Nation members have access to the information they require and deserve about basic financial management practices of their chief and council, and to empower them to ensure band revenues are being used for their benefit," the office for Valcourt said today in an email to CBC News.

The new legislation has received mixed reviews among First Nations groups. Some see the new legislation as an extension of requirements that have already been in place for some time, while others such as the Assembly of First Nations have said the new act does nothing to address calls by First Nations for "reciprocal accountability."

First Nations already have to produce their financial statements as part of their funding agreements with the federal government, but under the new law this is the first time they are being asked to post the information online.

more video