The Liard First Nation is formally withdrawing its support of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society over what it says are opaque accounting practices.
The First Nation’s chief, Liard McMillan, said that issues arose in 2012 when the First Nation started asking questions about LAWS’ financial statements.
“There are significant concerns surrounding accountability and the quality of services that are being used for the millions of dollars in public trust monies that have been received by LAWS over the years,” said McMillan.
Ann Maje Raider, the executive director of the society, could not be reached for comment by press time.
McMillan said his government began approaching the funding agencies for information about how the society was spending its money. The society responded with a letter from its lawyer, Myron Barr, threatening to sue the First Nation and stating that it was not accountable to that government.
“We wish to point out that our client is a society registered under the Societies Act of the Yukon. It is accountable only to members of the society. It is not accountable to members of the Liard First Nation,” the letter states.
That letter was sent in August 2012. McMillan said despite repeated attempts to get clarification, the First Nation has never received a response from LAWS.
“The fact that they’re taking the position through their legal council, that they’re not accountable to members of the Liard First Nation, is quite a compelling one,” McMillan said.
LAWS receives funding from a variety of sources, including Health Canada, Status of Women Canada and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to do outreach and support work in the southern Yukon. The First Nation often acts as an intermediary, helping by applying for money on behalf of the group.
The society was one of a number of non-profits that were instrumental in negotiating with the RCMP and producing the Sharing Common Ground report. It sought to repair the broken relationships between the Mounties and First Nation groups in the wake of Raymond Silverfox’s death in police custody in 2008.
Earlier this summer, LAWS also negotiated an historic agreement with the Yukon RCMP called Together For Justice to help the Mounties work with the community to prevent violence against women in Watson Lake.
The society’s financial statements were audited annually by an independent Whitehorse accountant. These statements, obtained by the News, were found to be in accordance with generally accepted Canadian accounting practices.
McMillan accused the society of not having sound governance or accounting practices. He said if the society wants to get government support back, they need to show they are more willing to be open and transparent.
“Probably the simplest thing would be to show they are willing to clarify their position, a position that they’ve taken well over a year ago, that they are not accountable to members of the Liard First Nation. For over a year, they have refused to respond,” McMillan said.
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