Four out of five Yukon and northern B.C. First Nations have failed to comply with a federal law that requires them to post their audited financial statements online.
Liard First Nation, Ross River Dena Council, White River First Nation, Dease River First Nation and Taku River Tlingit First Nation had until July 29 to publicly disclose their financial data for the last fiscal year, in accordance with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
Only Taku River Tlingit had posted the salaries and expenses of its chiefs and councillors by the deadline, set by Aboriginal Affairs.
The transparency act applies to the 582 First Nations in Canada that are considered bands under the Indian Act, but not to First Nations that already have self-governing agreements with the federal government. Eleven of Yukon’s 14 First Nations are self-governing.
Now, the bands have four months to comply or risk losing out on federal funding, the department announced on July 29.
“This law was put in place to ensure that First Nation band members have access to the information they require and deserve about basic financial management practices of their chief and council, and to empower them to ensure band revenues are being used for their benefit,” said Bernard Valcourt, minister of aboriginal affairs, in a statement.
“Bands which failed to comply so by the deadline will receive several formal reminders. After 120 calendar days, if there is no resolution, for bands that are refusing to comply with the law, the government will take action according to the provisions of the law, which could include withholding of funding.”
First Nations are already required to produce financial documents as part of their agreements with the federal government, but this is the first time they’ve been required to share them publicly on the Internet.
According to documents posted by Taku River Tlingit, its spokesperson, John Ward, received $72,800 for 10.5 months of work, leading up to the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
He also claimed more than $6,400 in travel expenses.
Marilyn Jack and Phil Williams, both Wolf directors, made $15,063.75 and $66,361.63, respectively.
David Moss and Toni Welch, both Crow directors, made $20,534 and $9,023.75, respectively.
No one from the Liard First Nation was available to comment on the situation, despite repeated attempts to contact band members.
Both Ross River and White River confirmed they are in the process of finalizing their audits.
“They should be completed by Monday or Tuesday, and then posted online shortly after,” said Sid Vandermeer, executive director at White River First Nation.
Earlier this week, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau told the Vancouver Sun a Liberal government would scrap the new federal legislation.
“I would work with First Nations to make sure that a proper accountability act that would have disclosed any excesses we see, but is done in a way that is respectful of the First Nation communities,” he told the paper.
Contact Myles Dolphin at