FNFTA Court Challenge Advisory
August 20, 2015
The FSIN Congratulates the Onion Lake, Ochapowace and Thunderchild First Nations on their Court Challenge of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act
FSIN Interim Chief Kim Jonathan and 4th Vice Chief Heather Bear attended the two day hearing on the legal challenge of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA) at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon to support the Onion Lake, Ochapowace, and Thunderchild First Nations who brought the action. The FSIN would like to acknowledge the support and attendance of the AFN Regional Chiefs and the National Chief during the proceedings.
On March 27, 2013, the FNFTA became law that requires the First Nations to publicly disclose their “audited consolidated financial statements” and the schedules of remuneration and expenses paid to
First Nations Chiefs and Councillors
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt has publicly warned that if First Nations don’t comply with the FNFTA the federal government will take the following action:
Withhold funding for non-essential programs, services and activities;
Withhold new or proposal based non-essential program funding;
Publish the names of all non-compliant First Nations on the AANDC website; and
Seek court orders to require publication.
The First Nations are challenging the validity of the FNFTA on two issues. First, the definition of “audited consolidated financial statements” includes the confidential financial business information of First Nation business owned entities. This law forces First Nations to reveal confidential financial details of their businesses which could potentially adversely impact their competitiveness. These First Nation business entities do not rely on government funding, therefore the federal government has no valid reason to require this information.
Second, the manner in which the federal government chose to enact the FNFTA ignored and dismissed the First Nations inherent right of self-governance. The First Nation leadership assert that they are first and foremost accountable to the membership of their communities. This law interferes in this relationship of transparency and accountability between the Chiefs and Counselors and their membership.
The issues of the intrusion on the First Nation inherent right of self-governance and the disclosure of confidential business information could have readily been addressed and remedied if the federal government made a concerted effort to properly consult and accommodate the First Nations prior to enacting this legislation. However, the federal government chose instead to proceed to make this law without consulting and accommodating First Nations Treaty, inherent and S.35 Constitutional rights.
The First Nations in Saskatchewan support the principles of financial transparency and accountability for enabling good governance. The FSIN will be closely monitoring the outcome of the court challenge and in the long term will seek to replace the FNFTA with First Nation legislation that protects the inherent right of self-governance and the confidentiality of First Nation owned businesses while ensuring transparency and accountability to First Nations’ members.
For more information contact:
Danette Starblanket, Assistant Executive Operating Officer
(306) 361-1158 (cellular) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org