Monday, September 22, 2014
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First Nations accountability deficit

Editorial


Calgary Sun

We'd like to call on Chief Ron Giesbrecht to resign. We really would. But there's no point. It's a futile gesture.

 

Following the salary disclosure deadline of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, Canadians' jaws dropped to learn that Giesbrecht, chief of the Kwikwetlem First Nation in British Columbia, earned $914,219 in the last fiscal year.

We're at least glad to know that amount has been reported. Almost two-thirds of band councils seem to have not complied with the law.

The feds announced last week that bands have until November to comply or will risk losing funding. We support this measure.

Unfortunately, this could harm regular folks on the reserve. But hopefully by that time the regular folks will start demanding why their leadership is so resistant to disclosure.

After learning the news about Giesbrecht, some Kwikwetlem band members went to protest in front of the band council office.

According to media reports, a prepared statement included this: "You're wrong, and you're disrespectful to your elders, you're disrespectful to your nation and it's just a disgrace that you did this to your people."

But in a Thursday press release Giesbrecht said he will not resign. "I am pleased to have support of the majority of membership," it read.

There are 82 members of the band, only half of whom live on the reserve.

Ultimately it's now up to the members to decide if Giesbrecht deserves re-election. But even then, transparency will be a challenge.

According to the Aboriginal affairs department website, Kwikwetlem elections are by "custom". In other words, they take care of it all internally, by their own rules. This is a shame. We hope they opt in to the newly passed First Nations Elections Act, which will give residents some broader checks and balances.

What's clear is that First Nations still have a gaping accountability deficit. This benefits the entrenched powers. The little guy on the reserve has little recourse.

If salaries on many reserves aren't known and elections don't follow strictly enforced rules, then how does any average resident hold their officials to account?

First Nations residents should have the same political rights as everyone in Canada. Sadly, this just isn't the case now.

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

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