OTTAWA — Manitoba First Nations will fight back with blockades and other economic barriers if the federal government follows through with a promise to cut funding from bands who refuse to make their finances public.
Only eight of Manitoba’s 63 First Nations have filed documents to comply with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The deadline to file was July 29.
Nationally, 236 bands have complied with the law, leaving more than 360 which have not.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said this week the holdouts will have until the end of November to comply or he will impose penalties, including withholding federal funding.
“This law was put in place to ensure that First Nation band 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,” said Erica Meekes, Valcourt’s press secretary.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper said if Valcourt makes good on his threat to cut funding, First Nations will set up blockades on economic projects such as pipelines and mining exploration.
“They are ready to close the pipelines,” he said. “They will fight back.”
Mathias Colomb Chief Arlen Dumas said his council sent in the documents but that shouldn’t be taken as a sign he supports the law. He said the government was already getting this information and the law is a smokescreen to try to embarrass and further instil stereotypes about First Nations governments.
“The real issue is that we are chronically underfunded, but instead of dealing with that, they want to make us all look like we are corrupt,” he said.
» Winnipeg Free Press