Nine First Nations in Atlantic Canada have missed the July 31 deadline to post online yearly financial audits and salaries for their chiefs and councils as required under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, or AANDC, the following First Nations have yet to file their audits and salaries as of September 1. They include:
- Eel Ground
- Esgenoopetitj First Nation
- Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq First Nation
- Pictou Landing
- Waycobah First Nation
Newfoundland and Labrador:
- Mushuau Innu First Nation
“First Nations that have yet to publish their FNFTA documents as required under the Act have been notified that the Department will be withholding their funding for non-essential programs, services and activities in accordance with provisions of the Act beginning September 1, 2015,” a AANDC spokeswoman stated in a written response.
When contacted, chiefs for Eel Ground, Metepenagiag, Tobique, Eskasoni, Pictou Landing said their audits are in the process of being finalized before they’re submitted to AANDC.
Waycobah Chief Roderick Googoo said his band’s audit was submitted to AANDC on Tuesday.
Esgenoopetitj First Nation Chief Alvery Paul, Kingsclear Chief Gabriel Atwin and Mushuau Innu First Nation Chief George Rich could not be reached for comment.
3rd Party Manager to Blame for Delay – Tobique Chief Ross Perley
According to Ross Perley, Chief of the Tobique First Nation, the delay in submitting the band audit is due to delays from the third-party manager AANDC appointed to the band.
“The band’s portion of the audit has been completed for several weeks,” Chief Perley wrote in email to Kukukwes.com on Wednesday. “AANDC’s portion of the audit under the management of BDO is not complete.”
“The band is now being threatened for funding cuts and being held responsible for the inactions of AANDC and (its) contractor, BDO,” he replied.
George Ginnish, Chief of Eel Ground First Nation said the band has yet to review and finalize this year’s financial audit before it’s submitted to AANDC.
“We’ll have something for them in the coming week or so,” Chief Ginnish said when reached by phone on Wednesday.
Part of the delay in submitting the audit and salaries to AANDC and posting online is due to the audit firm’s backlog of audits being done for other First Nations in New Brunswick, Chief Ginnish explained.
“Our auditor in New Brunswick does five or six other bands so it’s more of an issue of, you know, how many can you do at once and get it completed,” he said.
Under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, 581 First Nations in Canada are required to make their audits and salaries and expenses available to their members as well as post on a website. The legislation received royal assent in March 2013 and First Nations were given until July 2014 to begin posting their financial documents online.
In western Canada, AANDC is taking five First Nations to court to force them to make public their audits and salaries. The department is also withholding annual funding for non-essential services until they comply with the legislation.
Chief Ginnish said that’s not an option for his community.
“We really aren’t in a fiscal position not to comply. Ninety per cent of our funding is AANDC funding,” Chief Ginnish said.
“So, they start holding things up, our people start suffering.”