NIPISSING FIRST NATION, ON – (CCNMatthews – April 7, 2006) The leader of the Union of Ontario Indians is speaking out against a report that the Conservative government will introduce the Federal Accountability Act.
The report which is expected to include new powers to allow the Auditor General to examine First Nations communities’ books to determine whether taxpayers are getting value from federal cash transfers.
“The government is off on the wrong foot in their parliamentary agenda,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, representing the 42-member First Nations of the Union of Ontario Indians. “Paternalistic, and unilateral measures such as imposing the Auditor General on our governments only shows disrespect to our Nation and our inherent right to self-government.”
Beaucage favours “partnerships with the Conservative government rather than conflict and archaic ‘we-know-what’s-best-for-you’ attitudes”, states Beaucage.
“We are not particularly adverse to the intervention of the Auditor General,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “I’m confident their position will continue to be that First Nations are already over-burdened with reporting and drastically under funded.”
The Auditor General already has access to First Nations audits and reports through the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In fact, the Auditor Generals report in 2002 states that First Nations must submit a total of 168 reports a year to various federal organizations, a “significant burden” for communities that are struggling to deal with pressing social and economic needs using minimal resources. The Auditor General also stated that most of this information winds up on the shelf and is never used.
“Does this mean that someone will actually read over a hundred thousand reports, and over 600 comprehensive audits that are submitted by our governments each year?,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage.
First Nations, through the Assembly of First Nations are presently contemplating a number of recommendations to overhaul its national body to include a First Nations-specific Auditor General and an Ombudsman to handle disputes and complaints. These recommendations will be taken to the Annual General Assembly which is scheduled for July 2006 in Vancouver.
“We are not afraid of accountability and taking responsibility for our own finances and decision-making,” said Beaucage. “There is a serious misconception that First Nations have something to hide or that First Nations are corrupt. Such inferences are disrespectful, hurtful and this just isn’t so.”
“The message simply is we can do this for ourselves,” he concluded.
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.