Watch above: Majority of Saskatchewan First Nations’ financial statements still yet to be posted online by federal government
SASKATOON – Only six Saskatchewan First Nations have their financial statements posted online in accordance with a new transparency law that was enacted by the federal government Wednesday.
The First Nations Financial Transparency Act calls for all First Nations leaders to submit their financial information to the government within 120 days of the end of each financial year. July 30 marked the first day that reports would be considered past the deadline.
“There are mechanisms for compliance in the act,” said Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost, at his office in Saskatoon.
“Ultimately a heavy stick could be used, but I think in most cases it’s just going to be people dealing with the paper work to get it done,” he added.
An Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development official in Ottawa told Global News that the agency should have an idea of the compliance rate by next week. The official said that some First Nations had mailed their reports and may still be en-route.
Saskatoon MP’s who supported the law point to concerns they heard from aboriginal constituents who were wondering how money was being spent in their communities.
“I represent two reserves in the constituency of Saskatoon-Humboldt and over the years, band members have expressed concerns from both,” said Trost.
“That doesn’t mean there were necessarily any difficulties,” he added.
Saskatoon-Wanuskewin MP Maurice Vellacott also said he has heard questions from concerned First Nations residents in his riding about their communities’ financial expenditures.
One opponent of the sweeping legislation is Tyrone Tootoosis, who grew up on the Poundmaker Cree Nation. In the late 1980’s, Tootoosis attempted to uncover the compensation numbers of the chief and councillors.
“They were being paid too much,” said Tootoosis.
“There was one year there that, what was on record was just an unbelievable amount of money.”
Tootoosis said he was in favour of more transparency in First Nations governance; however, he would like to see it come from the communities themselves.
“That should actually be coming from within, from the people, from the government of Poundmaker Cree Nation; it shouldn’t be opposed upon us,” he said.
“I can understand there’s a sense of pride if you can take the initiative individually,” said Trost, who added that it would just be too complicated to not take a uniform approach.