Open letter to Yukon MP Larry Bagnell:
I am pleased to see your return to office and am hoping that you may be able to use your experience and influence to help improve the lot of Canadian First Nations members.
I had lunch today with a number of longtime Yukoners and the conversation turned to the tragedy of Attawapiskat and the difficulties facing First Nations in general. It would appear that in an effort to distance itself from a paternalistic, colonial past and embark on a relationship with First Nations based on mutual respect, your government has inadvertently thrown the baby out with the bathwater. I refer to the Liberal government decision not to require financial openness on the part of aboriginal leaders.
Canadians are currently dealing with the fallout from an investigation into the expenditure of senators. Surely there is a lesson here. If guidelines are clear (and enforced), if those in a position of financial responsibility are required to act in an open and transparent manner, then incentives and opportunities for nepotism and corruption are diminished and the nation as a whole benefits.
What so many citizens of First Nations around the country are desperately lacking is hope: hope for a better and brighter future for themselves and for generations to come. For their part, numerous governments over the years have recognized, to a greater or lesser degree, a financial obligation to invest in the future of First Nations peoples.
Without enforceable requirements for financial transparency and accountability on the part of politicians, however, be they MPs, senators, chiefs or council members, then the distribution of cash, no matter under what label, is like opening spigots of water into the desert. And hope evaporates.
The need is great. But if we want to encourage the growth of oases, and before we pour more resources into the sand, we must ensure that monies intended to develop communities and opportunities for First Nations members are safeguarded by appropriate regulations and that individual members’ rights are protected – and are seen to be protected.
You have a reputation of friendship and respect for First Nations peoples. I respectfully urge you to do your utmost to see that their rights and interests are protected by advancing legislation that requires transparency and accountability on the part of those who would act on their behalf.