|Posted by Val Fox on November 25, 2012 at 2:00 PM|
A November 22 National Post article, Financial Bill Set to Pass in House of Commons, has highlighted some of the issues that many First Nations communities face when dealing with elected officials. If the financial transparency bill is passed, First Nations in Canada will be required to publish their financial statements including pay, honorariums and travel for Chiefs and Councillors.
Although the concerns are similar to some other reserves in Canada, Writer John Ivison cited the example of Alberta’s Kainai reservation, stating that he’d received “the kind of information that is currently inaccessible to non-band members.” Ivison shared that Kainai Chief and Council claimed $1.7 million in tax-free expenses “last year.” Locals of this community are now repeating that one or more councillors make even more money than Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Non-band members aren’t the only ones in the dark. For years I’ve listened to members of Canada’s largest reservation express concerns over monies spent, and programs/services that have vanished due to lack of funding. Residents who demand accountability are sometimes bullied, fired or forced out of their jobs, leaving a frustrated community that is unsure of all the facts.
Ivison stated that Lethbridge auditors reported, for example, that all monies may not be accurately recorded – that the risk of fraud and misappropriated funds is high in both past and current tribal governments.
And then, there is the upcoming election. Not being a band member, I have no voice, no vote. But I will share my observations with you, having lived on this reserve for several years. There is a lot of talk, some based on fact, some on rumor and innuendo. Many voters do not understand the bigger picture. Others lack the education to make informed decisions. I listened to one candidate speak on Lastar radio about his plans for the future. He has no more than a grade nine education, yet wants to manage global funding from the federal government that numbers in the millions. Families band together and try to gather power in numbers. Others talk about the same issues but never offer a realistic solution. On November 27 there will be approximately 100 candidates vying for 13 positions – 12 councillors and one Chief.
It will be an interesting year if the transparency bill is passed and becomes law. The people may be shocked to find how well their councellors are paid when most of the community faces lack of employment and lost services. My foster children can’t even secure a ride by a transporter to a family visit. The head of the department is now gone. And so is the money.
tags: honesty; government; accountable; elections; votes; community issues; poor vs. rich; entitlement; corruption; uninformed voters; secrecy; secrets
Categories: Cultures and Communities