The Liard First Nation is being audited by the federal government.
Erica Meekes, a spokeswoman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, said the First Nation was notified of the audit in July.
“Liard First Nation was selected for a recipient audit and was notified of this decision in July 2013,” Meekes said in an emailed statement.
“The recipient audit will not affect the delivery of programming to eligible First Nation members in the Watson Lake area. Auditors work with the First Nation’s staff and their activities will not disrupt the general public or community,” the statement said.
Federal funding recipients are selected for an audit based on a risk evaluation, the value of the funding agreement, or at random.
This is not the first time that the Liard First Nation’s finances have come into question. In 2007, the government spent nearly $3 million in federal money to buy three hotels in Watson Lake. The plan was to convert one of them into affordable housing units, but years after the sale that still hadn’t happened and eventually the building burned down. The controversy over that spending, and allegations that it was handled improperly by the First Nation, followed then-chief Liard McMillan until the end of his last term this fall.
But when McMillan came to power in 2003, he leveled allegations against the leader he replaced, Daniel Morris, that he had taken more than $250,000 in improper personal loans while he was the leader. In that case, McMillan tried to get Ottawa to investigate the missing money, but the federal government refused, saying it couldn’t prove that federal tax dollars were the ones that went astray.
Morris is chief once more, having won the recent election earlier in December. However, he did not return a call for comment on this story, and has not spoken to any media outlets since the election.
McMillan said he’s not worried about this audit finding fault with anything in his decade-long administration’s finances.
“We’ve done our best to be in compliance with our contribution agreements. Aboriginal Affairs has signed off on our audit each and every year. I’m not saying there haven’t been issues we’ve had to work through from time to time, but I wouldn’t see anything major coming out in terms of what has happened over the last 10 years,” McMillan said.
But he’s also not entirely happy about it. Last fall, McMillan handed control over the LFN’s social assistance program back to the federal government, saying his government wasn’t getting enough money to run things itself. He said he thinks this audit is another attempt by Ottawa to cause headaches for the First Nation.
“It has been challenging to manage our organization effectively over the past 10 years and I think that challenge has increased, due in part to the fact that Canada and Aboriginal Affairs is unhappy with the fact that the LFN has rejected a land claims agreement. My belief is that they have been trying to penalize us financially within whatever measures they have at their disposal within the funding agreements,” he said.
Contact Jesse Winter at