First Nations have until the end of November to comply with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, or they could risk losing their government funding.
The deadline for all 633 of Canada’s First Nations to comply was July 29, and "if there is no resolution" the federal government can withhold funding, according to Erica Meekes, press secretary in the office of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt.
"Bands which failed to comply by the deadline ... will receive several formal reminders," Meekes told the Sun via email. "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 that refuse to post their financial statements online could also be subject to a court order forcing them to comply.
Under the act, First Nations — defined as Indian bands under the Indian Act — must disclose chief and council salaries, other forms of remuneration, travel expenses as well as finances from band-owned business and consolidated financial audits of First Nations bands.
The new law also allows the government to post the information on the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website.
As of Wednesday evening, four out of seven nearby First Nations had yet to comply with the act. Those include Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation, Waywayseecappo First Nation and Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.
Representatives from each community cited finalizing financial documents and finishing audits as reasons behind the holdup. However, they all said they plan to comply with the new law.
Sioux Valley Chief Vince Tacan said he’s not opposed to the transparency act and hopes to have their audit completed soon.
"It’s one step in the business that we need to do and in our case there’s going to be a little more onus on us as a First Nation that’s in self-government," Tacan said.
Sioux Valley officially entered self-government last month and according to AANDC’s website, the transparency act doesn’t apply to self-governing First Nations "because accountability and transparency measures are already built into their agreements."
However, Tacan said they still plan to comply with the new law.
"We’re going to do it as a matter of information sharing," he said. "It’s just good business to do that."
Tacan said he earns $65,000 a year and five council members earn $45,000 each annually, all of which exclude travel expenses.
He said their salaries haven’t changed for at least the past five years.
"Those are the numbers, I know that for sure those won’t change," he said.
"We’ve been pretty transparent about sharing that information."
Tacan said they host quarterly meetings, post information on their website and release written reports to keep members up-to-date on the community’s finances.
"We’re working on it. It’s not perfect but we’re struggling with new things as well, so we’re trying to figure out our communications and how we can get information out effectively."
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