This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, June 29, 2015

First Nations Accountability, Transparency

"This was a breach of fiduciary duty, even in the context of a relatively informal and custom-based governance structure."
"In my view, such a structure should not deprive members of the [Lower Kootenay] Band of the protection of the fiduciary principle. They were entitled to hold the defendants to the high standard to which other fiduciaries are held in this country."
B.C. Court of Appeal
  - File
"Councils should develop financial administration and conflict of interest policies."
"Implementing bylaws or laws and policies to provide accountability and transparency in financial management is essential to good governance."
Mandell Pinder, legal analysis
B.C.T.F president Jim Iker speaks to media before heading into the B.C Court of Appeal in Vancouver, British Columbia on October 14, 2014. "B.C. government appeals a B.C. Supreme Court decision that ruled legislation that removed bargaining rights from teachers' contracts was unconstitutional." (BEN NELMS for The Globe and Mail) (Ben Nelms For The Globe and Mail)

Across Canada the shameful issues of Band Councils on reserves garnishing their already-generous salaries for administering the affairs of relatively small First Nations populations by irresponsibly failing to properly use and distribute funds regularly received via the Canadian taxpayer through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, from time to time hits the news when truly egregious benefits are disclosed to the public.

Often enough when some enterprising entity defending fairness discovers these ethical misdemeanours and makes them public, it will be the first time band members will have heard that their poverty could be lightened had those whom they have elected to responsibly allocate funding where it is most needed not chosen instead to entitle themselves personally with a generous share of the funding meant to be used on behalf of the band, not its council.

On a First Nation band comprised of 235 members in the Regional District of Central Kootenay, British Columbia, the band was paid $125,000 for the use of a road crossing the reserve. With that cash in hand, the five-member band council voted to pay themselves a $5,000 bonus each. Two years later one of the band members became aware of the payout, and he took the council to court to have the funds restored to the band.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has found for the complainant. The court made a landmark ruling that the chief and four councillors had breached their duty to the band, and must repay the money. First Nation band councils operate under their own rules. But they should observe rules and safeguards similar to those other governments across Canada adhere to, to avoid an obvious deficit of accountability.

Because of these outstanding situations of band councils covertly working on their own personal behalf rather than representing the interests of the band as a whole, as they are meant to do, the federal government enacted a new First Nations Financial Transparency Act requiring chiefs and councillors to publicly disclose their pay. First Nation chief Ron Giesbrecht 'earned' $914,249 tax-free in 2013-14. the FNFTA was responsible for revealing that payout.

"If it wasn't for this new transparency act, I don't think we ever would have known", stated Marvin Joe of the Kwikwetlem band. The new law exposed how from the Shuswap First Nation, four council members shared $4.1-million over four years as compensation for governing a band comprised of 267 people. The First Nations people living on reserves across Canada deserve better than that.

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