OTTAWA – Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett has announced that the federal government is putting a stop to controversial compliance measures laid out in the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
In a statement released on Friday, Bennett said “”Today, I directed my Department to cease all discretionary compliance measures related to the First Nations Financial Transparency Act and to reinstate funding withheld from First Nations under these measures.
The First Nations Financial Transparency Act was initiated by the Conservative government, who made it mandatory for bands across Canada to release their financial information online or have their government funds withheld. The Act, also known as Bill C-27, was passed despite several objections from Indigenous communities.
The Assembly of First Nations criticized the act, saying “The Bill is a flawed approach that, amongst many problems, forces First Nations to disclose details about own source revenue from band operated businesses and enterprises that hurt their ability to compete with other businesses.”
As a result of the new announcement, $12 million in funding will now be released to those Indigenous Nations who previously did not comply, reportedly 43 communities in total.
In addition to ceasing discretionary compliance measures, Bennett said the government will also “suspend any court actions against First Nations who have not complied with the Act.”
Moving forward, Bennett will meet with Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, in partnership and consultation with Indigenous nations, to undertake “a review of the laws to ensure that the Crown is fully executing its obligations in accordance with its constitutional and international obligations”.
Bennett says that consulting with Indigenous peoples on laws that affect them will help shape the nation-to-nation relationship that the new federal government hopes to achieve.
“These initial steps will enable us to engage in discussions on transparency and accountability that are based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership and that build towards a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde responded to the government’s decision with a statement of his own.
“We welcome this announcement by the Minister and look forward to working with the government on a new, better approach aimed at real accountability,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “First Nations fully support accountability, but Bill C-27 is a flawed piece of legislation that does not respect our rights and must be repealed. Today’s announcement gives us an opportunity to work together on a better approach where First Nations are accountable to their citizens first and the government is accountable to the public for its funding to First Nations.”