REGINA – The deadline has passed, but less than twenty per cent of the First Nations in Saskatchewan have reported their finances online.
The federal government’s First Nations Financial Transparency Act requires bands to publicly report their finances, including salaries and expenses.
Some First Nation leaders don’t believe they should, while others welcome the transparency.
“A lot of band members question what chiefs and band councillors get as a salary or a wage, or whatever they want to call it. But this way, they could just go on the web page and everything is there and nothing is hidden,” said Malcolm Delorme, a councillor from the Cowessess First Nation.
Of the 70 First Nations in Saskatchewan, 13 have made their finances public. One point of interest is the discrepancy between the amounts of their salaries and expenses.
The chief of the Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation received $14,488 for eight months of service while, the chief of the Big River First Nation received $144,915 over one year.
“I’m always shocked by seeing how little the pay is for some First Nation chiefs and councillors,” said Ken Coates from the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
“There is no more difficult job in the country then being a chief of a First Nation. The demands in those positions are extraordinary.”
With a small number reporting, the question is whether the federal government will punish those who don’t comply. It has the authority to withhold funding, but Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost says band members will more likely be demanding its chief and councillors to comply.
“My guess is you’ll see most First Nations conform in due course. They will do so reluctantly and in some cases with considerable anger,” said Coates.
Although only 13 audits are online, Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Development said others may have filed but they just haven’t been processed yet.