Skidegate chief councillor agrees with new legislation

  • Nov. 28, 2011 12:00 p.m.

First Nation bands across the country will now be required by law to disclose council and chief salaries. Last Wednesday, the Conservative government introduced a bill in Parliament that would require elected First Nations officials to disclose their salaries and expenses. Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Bill C-27 will give his office the authority to withhold transfers and even cancel financing agreements if a band refuses to comply with the legislation. It also requires bands to disclose publicly, payments made to chiefs and councillors from “any entity that it controls,” such as a casino or real estate holdings. “This gives First Nations the same information as all other Canadians have with their local, provincial and federal governments,” said Duncan. Here on Haida Gwaii, Skidegate Chief Councillor Robert Mills says he’s not opposed to it. “Elected official’s earnings should be reported. We have nothing to hide. We are accountable to the Department of Indian Affairs and we are also accountable to Skidegate through audits and financial responsibility.” Mr. Mills did say he would have liked to see more consultation. “The federal government needs to engage with First Nations. If they had worked with bands, more views could have been heard and more questions could have been answered.” NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic Linda Duncan accused the government of being “heavy-handed” and ignoring former auditor Sheila Fraser’s conclusion that the onus is on Ottawa to be more accountable for miserable living conditions on many reserves. “With all these issues like safe drinking water and education, this is their priority?” said Duncan. Last year, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation released a report alleging corruption on reserves. The CTF said 50 chiefs were paying themselves more than the Prime Minister, 160 band politicians were paid more than their provincial premiers and more than 600 earned the equivalent of $100,000-plus salaries. The Assembly of First Nations countered saying only 21 earned more than their premiers and none more than Mr. Harper.The Observer tried to reach Old Masset Deputy Chief, Ron Brown Jr. for comment. Our calls were not returned.