Friday, September 19, 2014
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First Nations accountability law 'an overreaction'

CBC News

So far, only a handful of First Nations in northeastern Ontario have publicly released their financial records in accordance with a new federal law.

The deadline for all First Nations to post financial records on their websites was yesterday.

As of Wednesday morning, four of the 40 first nations in the region were in compliance with the new law. They are Michipicoten, Mississauga, Matachewan and Temagami.

Of those who are co-operating, some report they are not happy about the government's approach.

Nipissing First Nation Chief Marianna Couchie said she agrees with the spirit of the new First Nations Financial Transparency Act, but feels the government is being "mean-spirited."

She noted there isn't a two-way street when it comes to financial reporting.

"Indian affairs doesn't report back to us in terms of how much they spend on their overhead.”

Staying 'out of trouble'

The new law says a First Nation that doesn't publicly release audited financial statements could see a cut in its federal funding.

While her community's latest audit report will be ready later in the week, Couchie said her First Nation has a long history of sharing financial statements with its members.

The chief of Michipicoten First Nation, said he believes most First Nations are like his. They spend their dollars wisely and share financial records with their members, Joe Buckell said.

"You have to pay your bills. We work with our budget and policies and procedures and that's how we stay out of trouble."

Buckell, a former accountant, said he blames the media for painting an irresponsible picture of First Nations governments.

"They're just trying to make the First Nations look like money grubbers."

Some First Nations leaders have slammed the new transparency act, but Couchie is not among them.

"It's unfortunate that some first nations are taking that approach."

However she said she feels the federal government is blaming all First Nations for the few that are having financial troubles.

"It's an overreaction to a few communities."

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