Liard First Nation will soon be fully in control of its federal funding again, three and a half years after the federal government first appointed a third party to manage the Yukon First Nation’s finances.
In a press release March 13, LFN announced that, starting April 1, it will be managing the money it receives from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB), taking back the reins from Vancouver-based firm Ganhada Management Group for the first time since September 2014.
The federal government appointed Ganhada as a third-party manager of INAC funds back then over concerns that following allegations of mismanaged funds and an ever-growing debt, the First Nation would no longer be able to deliver core services to its citizens. Ganhada also began managing LFN’s FNIHB funds in January 2015.
However, it appears that LFN has now regained the federal government’s trust.
“Liard First Nation has been able to demonstrate significant progress over the past few months towards building capacity and satisfying financial reporting obligations,” the press release reads.
“The advancement in the management of our funding agreement with Canada moves our nation further along the path of self-determination by strengthening our operational capacity and the sustainable delivery of federal programs and services.”
The release says that a “transition period” is underway to “transfer knowledge and information” from Ganhada, and that LFN has hired a “qualified financial advisor to support the management and administration of its key funding agreements with Canada.”
LFN’s relationship with Ganhada was often turbulent. When the federal government first announced that it would be appointing a third-party manager, then-Chief Daniel Morris accused Canada of trying to “strong-arm” his newly-elected government.
LFN also went to court to seek a federal judicial review of the federal government’s decision to re-appoint Ganhada as the First Nation’s third-party manager in 2016, with Morris claiming the firm was failing to communicate with the First Nation and live up to its duties. LFN citizens, in turn, lobbed the same accusations at Morris and his government.
In an interview, current LFN Chief George Morgan said that getting out of third-party management has “absolutely” been a priority for him and his government since they were elected in June 2017.
“It’s not great to be paying another company large fees to administer programs and services that arguably we can do a better job delivering — at least, my current government can do a better job,” he said.
“I feel very confident in our current council and senior administration, that we’re going to make massive improvements in governance and program and service delivery.… We have the ability and the commitment.”
Among the upcoming improvements, Morgan said, is a greater dedication to transparency, with initiatives including holding regular, open chief-and-council meetings, implementing regular annual general assemblies (something Morgan said has been absent from the First Nation for years), producing audits and making them available to citizens and launching a website in April where the government can disseminate information.
LFN will also be able to focus on priorities like housing, unemployment, addiction, poverty and other “bread-and-butter issues” come April 1, Morgan said, but until then, his government is dealing with closing out files that were being managed by Ganhada, getting files and information from the firm and producing a financial report.
“I wouldn’t say (the transition is) ‘smooth,’ but we’re making good progress, let’s put it that way,” he said, adding that LFN was “pleased with our funding partners and their willingness to work with us in a collegial manner.”
“We’re appreciative of that,” he said.
In a press release, federal Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott congratulated LFN.
“This step forward demonstrates the commitment and hard work of the Liard First Nation, and we look forward to continuing to work with the community to support the collaborative, multi-year vision to deliver federal programs and services,” Philpott said.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org