‘First Nations unfairly funded for basic services’

NationalPost.com – Full Comment  Re: First Nations Last In Openness, John Ivison, Oct. 7.
October 12, 2010.   Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

While First Nations are last on many key socio-economic indicators in this country, we are certainly not last in openness as claimed in John Ivison.

First Nations, constrained under the Indian Act, file 60,000 reports annually to the federal government. They languish in this administrative quagmire, responding to existing and new reporting requirements from Ottawa, rather than to the needs of their citizens.

In contrast, First Nation communities that have moved forward through negotiation or settlement to advance their own jurisdiction and responsibilities, are fully transparent, accountable and demonstrate a level of service that is yielding real results. These First Nation governments exercise full responsibility and have democratic participation rates in leadership and other processes that are far stronger than anywhere else in this country.

If First Nation people are “furious” about anything, it’s the unfair funding in critical areas that directly affect the well-being of our children. The unfortunate reality is that First Nations are unfairly funded for all basic services. When our children are being apprehended at alarming rates, forced to sit in schools that are making them sick (when they have schools to go to) then yes, we do question the wisdom of spending time and energy on a bill that Mr. Ivison’s own data shows is not a major problem (Mr. Ivison cites just three examples out of 633 FN governments).

The government has to do its part to reboot the relationship by working with us to bring clarity, efficiency and results to the federal government’s approach to First Nations. Together we can and must chart a path that begins with respect, settles and upholds long outstanding obligations of the federal government, and moves forward with us to build First Nation governments able to deliver effective services and supports to their people which includes full disclosure and accountability.

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations, Ottawa.

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Why do some chiefs oppose accountability …

Re: First Nations Last In Openness, John Ivison, Oct. 7.
John Ivison’s column on the recently introduced private member’s bill that would compel First Nations to publish chiefs and band councillors salaries sheds light on a very important matter. That there is resistance from the Liberal party and the Assembly of First Nations is no surprise. Let us recall that the Liberal party purposefully torpedoed its own minister’s legislation in 2003 when Bob Nault’s bill on First Nations Governance came too close to passage.
The Liberal party received over $350,000 in political contributions from 2000 to 2006, donated by aboriginal contributors, according to Elections Canada’s online database. Who would wish to stem such a tide of income to the party coffers by pursuing any efforts at reform of the status quo?
What is baffling is why the legislation is required at all. If the chiefs are as accountable, transparent and responsible as the AFN claims them to be, why is salary information not readily available and already proffered to First Nations citizens?
How can the idea of accounting of the investment of public funds towards political salaries be seen as an example of government-knows-best prescription, as AFN Chief Shawn Atleo contends?
Let’s be clear. Not all chiefs are unaccountable. Not all communities lack transparency. All First Nations citizens and indeed all Canadians have a right to know how much their politicians are being paid.
Such disclosure is necessary. Such openness reflects democracy. Relative silence on this matter such as there has been speaks louder than words.
Senator Patrick Brazeau, Ottawa.

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