Feds take legal action against Liard First Nation

The federal government is going to court to try and force the Liard First Nation to disclose the salaries and expenses of its chief and councillors for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The federal government is going to court to try and force the Liard First Nation to disclose the salaries and expenses of its chief and councillors for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

According to the notice of application, which dates from April 8, the government is seeking to enforce section 8 of the First Nation Financial Transparency Act.

Under the act, which passed last year, unsigned First Nations have 120 days after the end of the financial year to publish audited financial documents online.

But despite receiving a 120-day extension at the end of July last year, the Liard First Nation has failed to disclose any documents, becoming the only Yukon First Nation refusing to comply with the act.

As it stands, only 10 of the 582 First Nations covered by the act have failed to provide their financial statements.

“Liard First Nation has failed to, or refused to, publish all of the documents in accordance with section 8 of the Act for the financial year 2013-2014 despite repeated demands from the Minister to comply with the Act and despite having been provided additional time within which to meet the requirements of the Act,” the notice of application states.

The federal government placed Liard First Nation under third party management in August.

At the time, Chief Daniel Morris said the First Nation owed Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada $708,000.

In his last public statement, Morris said there were no plans to co-operate with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

“To me this seems like they are trying to strong-arm a new government in the First Nation,” he said at the time.

In January, a Liard First Nation resident claimed that elders weren’t receiving their usual quotas of wood and oil during the winter, causing hardship in the community.

And a meeting in Watson Lake this past April between Aboriginal Affairs, Health Canada and the Liard First Nation’s third party manager failed to accomplish much, according to the same resident.

“People are concerned about where our rent money is going, why there haven’t been any repairs to our houses,” said Albert Chief at the time.

“We also wanted to know how much the chief is making and whether he gave himself a raise. We want to know what the hell is going on there.”

It’s still unclear what the punishment would be if the Liard First Nation continues to refuse to release the information.

The act says the government can withhold cash from First Nations that don’t comply.

But essential services continue to be delivered in the community by the Third-Party Funding Agreement Manager, Ganhada Management Group. All “non-essential” services have already been cut.

Morris could not be reached for comment in time for today’s deadline.

According to the CBC, the federal government has filed applications in federal court against seven other bands.

Two of them – Alberta’s Sawridge and Saskatchewan’s Onion Lake First Nation – are taking the government to court, questioning the legality of the act.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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