Colin Craig, CTF Prairie Director arrives to testify for the Aboriginal and Northern Development committee hearing on Bill C-27 at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada Oct 22, 2012
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
Colin Craig, the prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the government introduced legislation on First Nation accountability after the group released data obtained through Access to Information laws.
Bill C-27, a government bill designed to "enhance the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations," has passed second reading in the Commons and it is now being studied at committee.
"It is something we pushed for and the government has responded with it (legislation)," Craig said. "It is great news because we have heard from a lot of grassroots band members that, in the past, haven't been able to get this information."
According to terms proposed in the bill, the aboriginal affairs minister could withhold funds from First Nations who do not publish salaries for chiefs and councillors.
But some aboriginal groups, including the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), say chiefs and councillors are already required to provide audited financial statements annually. The AFN says the new bill increases "onerous reporting requirements."
"This new bill reinforces the need for a transformed fiscal relationship between First Nations and the federal government," the AFN states in a backgrounder posted on its website.
"Current funding arrangements through federal grants and contributions for basic services ... are subject to annual allocations, changing program parameters and reporting obligations as well as unilateral realignment, reductions and adjustments."
Craig said aboriginal leaders are required to give
financial information to band members but that "often does not happen" in reality.
"We have a lot of examples of people who have requested the information from the federal government because they can't get it at the local level," he said. "We know there is a problem out there."