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One third of Sask. First Nations have yet to file finances

Chief Wallace Fox of Onion Lake Cree Nation is leading the charge against the federal government's transparency act. Brent McGillvray / Global News

REGINA – The deadline has passed, but 25 Saskatchewan First Nations have yet to comply with the Financial Transparency Act.

According to the federal government’s website, updated September 1, more than a third of the First Nations in Saskatchewan have not submitted their audits for 2014/15 and nearly 200 have yet to do so nation-wide.

The federal government says it can withhold grants and money for development programs, including the Aboriginal Business Development Program and the Community Economic Opportunities Program, if a First Nation fails to comply.

“From the Federation’s point of view, all funding is essential. Every penny is essential,” said Vice Chief Heather Bear with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. The FSIN has been vocal about its opposition to the Act.

Bear said some bands have been busy recovering from fire damage and are not deliberately refusing to comply.

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“Their priority is putting their communities back together. They’ve had massive fires. They’ve had massive depletion of funds,” said Bear.

Walter Hainault, general manager for the Clearwater River Dene Nation, told Global News that one difficulty is that First Nations don’t receive funding for the audits. Although he disagrees with the act, he said the audit is currently being worked on and will be submitted to Aboriginal Affairs as soon as possible.

A group of three Saskatchewan First Nations, the Onion Lake, Ochapowace and Thunderchild First Nations, is challenging the validity of the act in court.

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