Transparency and accountability engagement: What we heard

Summaries of the face-to-face meetings for the engagement on a way forward with First Nations on mutual financial transparency and accountability will be posted here. These meetings are designed to seek input from First Nations leadership and organizations on the way forward for mutual transparency and accountability.

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Saskatoon, SK: April 5, 2017

Participants

Approximately 11 participants attended this engagement session. The participants were elected and administrative First Nation leaders and tribal council officials. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • James Smith Cree Nation (Chakastaypasin)
  • Whitecap Dakota First Nation
  • Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation
  • Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation
  • The Key First Nation
  • Kinistin Saulteaux Nation
  • Big River First Nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Saskatoon, SK engagement session:

  • More background context is needed to help inform Canadians on the reality of managing a First Nations community.
  • The federal government should come to an agreement with First Nations on what information should and should not be shared with the Canadian public.
  • INAC should add additional measures to ensure the accuracy of information it shares with the media on First Nations.
  • First Nation reporting requirements should either be reduced or First Nations should be given additional funding to increase their staff and help pay for audit costs so that they can better meet current reporting requirements.
  • First Nation reporting requirements, particularly their reporting requirements to their membership, should be tailored in a manner that allows the majority of members without an accounting background to easily understand the financial information of their communities.
  • The reporting requirements should be generally consistent amongst First Nations, regardless of the size or complexity of their operations.
  • First Nations should communicate financial results to their membership rather than membership having to request this information from INAC.
  • The manner in which First Nations communicate financial results to their membership should be flexible, as long as the information is accurate and clearly demonstrates how the First Nation administration is using the funding.
  • There may be a role for a financial transparency law to support First Nation financial reporting to membership, although there was no consensus on the type or level of reporting, and whether that reporting should be disclosed to the general public. It was not specified what role First Nations governments, First Nation organizations, or the Federal Government would play in the enactment, implementation and regulation of such a law.
  • INAC and First Nations should work together to develop specific outcomes/results relative to the funding provided to their communities. Adding results-based information would make financial reporting more meaningful.

Fort Qu'Appelle, SK: April 10, 2017

Participants

Approximately 13 participants attended this engagement session. The participants were elected and administrative First Nation leaders and tribal council officials. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • Muskowekwan First Nation
  • Piapot Cree Nation
  • Yorkton Tribal Council
  • Sakimay First Nation
  • Fishing Lake First Nation
  • Kahkewistahaw First Nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Fort Qu'Appelle, SK engagement session:

  • INAC should clearly communicate to First Nations why the federal government collects certain financial information and for what other purposes it may be used.
  • First Nations should disclose financial information to their membership and to the federal government, but should not be obligated to publish audited consolidated financial statements on a public website.
  • INAC should explore options to support financial training for First Nations members, which could assist them in holding their governments to account.
  • First Nations should be given more time to review annual funding agreements and to plan for new projects or initiatives.
  • INAC should reduce reporting requirements for First Nations who have demonstrated they are low-risk funding recipients.
  • First Nations should be given the opportunity to develop their own unique financial transparency laws.
  • First Nations should be provided flexibility in how they communicate financial information to their membership.
  • If communities were to pursue their own financial transparency laws, an appeal mechanism would be necessary in the event of non-compliance from First Nations. It was not specified what this mechanism would entail exactly, but could include involvement by the federal government or a First Nation institution.
  • The Government of Canada's accountability requirements to the Canadian public must be balanced with First Nations' requirement to have control over their own information. As an example, First Nations should provide an audit of all federal funding to the federal government for public disclosure, and another audit to their membership that includes own-source revenue.
  • The federal government should clarify how much funding devoted to First Nations is actually spent on federal overhead and administrative costs to provide better context to the Canadian public on the extent to which funding can reasonably be expected to achieve outcomes in First Nations communities.
  • First Nations should only be held accountable for the results in their communities to the extent that they receive sufficient funding to deliver on the expected outcomes.
  • The federal government should proactively disclose more of the salary and travel expenses of federal public servants.
  • INAC should explore the option of a First Nations ombudsman (either regional or community-specific positions).

Miramichi, NB: April 10, 2017

Participants

Approximately 14 participants attended this engagement session. The participants were elected and administrative First Nation leaders. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • Buctouche Band
  • Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation
  • Fort Folly Band
  • Eel Ground Band
  • Esgenoopetitj First Nation
  • Pabineau Band
  • Eel River Bar First Nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Miramichi, NB engagement session:

  • First Nations have no objection to reporting to the public and to their membership on INAC funding. However, INAC should provide First Nations with more resources to support the time and effort required to report financial information that is clear and easy to understand.
  • INAC needs to be clearer on the level of detail and content required from First Nations when reporting on federal funding.
  • INAC should support the capacity of First Nations to generate their financial reports in order to reduce the administrative burden on First Nations governments.
  • INAC should increase support to First Nations self-governance, as recognized in treaties, so that First Nations can administer their own financial processes and requirements.
  • First Nation policies and practices should be taken into account when developing a transparency and accountability framework.
  • INAC should follow the recommendations outlined in previous auditor general reports, specifically in regards to addressing on-reserve needs.
  • INAC and First Nations should develop a mutually-agreeable approach to arrive at funding decisions collaboratively.
  • First Nation community members and the general public need to be continually educated on First Nation funding and spending to avoid misinterpretations.
  • Small First Nations with limited complexity of operations should have reduced reporting requirements as compared to larger First Nation communities.
  • There should be flexibility in how First Nations communicate financial results to their membership. Information also needs to be communicated in a way that is easy for their membership to understand.
  • First Nations should report to INAC solely on INAC funding. Funding received from other government departments should not be included in an INAC audit.
  • As part of a nation-to-nation relationship, the federal government should fund First Nations at the same level as the provinces, ensure an open dialogue, formally recognize First Nations, and honour all treaty agreements.
  • First Nations should be required to follow the same reporting standards as the provinces.
  • INAC should not develop new First Nations institutions until there is further clarification regarding their proposed structure, source of funding, and reporting framework. There was concern that the creation of additional First Nations institutions could lead to a reduction in funding to First Nations or an increase in their reporting burden.
  • There is no role for existing advocacy organizations to play in supporting First Nations transparency and accountability.
  • There may be a role for a federal financial transparency law if it is developed collaboratively with First Nations.

Meadow Lake, SK: April 20, 2017

Participants

Approximately eight participants attended this engagement session. The participants were elected and administrative First Nation leaders and tribal council officials. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • Meadow Lake Tribal Council
  • Onion Lake Cree Nation
  • Waterhen Lake First Nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Meadow Lake, SK engagement session:

  • As part of a nation-to-nation relationship, INAC should be more accountable to First Nations in terms of the provision of adequate funding to support programs and services, and other policy and funding decisions taken.
  • First Nations should only be held accountable for the performance of their programs to the extent that they receive sufficient funding to deliver on their expected outcomes.
  • INAC should prioritize addressing social issues impacting First Nation communities, such as housing and education. Better transparency and accountability will follow.
  • In order to better respond to community needs, First Nations' funding agreements should be more flexible and should provide First Nations with greater control over how they spend federal funding.
  • INAC should provide First Nations with more funding and resources to help increase their financial management capacity, as well as to support them in meeting current reporting requirements. These investments towards capacity development would help support First Nations in being transparent and accountable to their membership.
  • Participants registered concern that the First Nations Financial Transparency Act was put in place to address a problem with a small number of First Nations, where capacity development may have had stronger results.
  • First Nation policies and practices should be taken into account when developing a transparency and accountability framework.
  • First Nation financial reporting requirements should be developed on a nation-to-nation basis between the federal government and First Nations.
  • There may be a role for new First Nation institutions. However, there was concern that the creation of additional First Nation institutions could lead to a reduction in funding to First Nations, or duplicate existing First Nation oversight and assurance functions.
  • The Office of the Treaty Commissioner should be strengthened and be more involved in discussions with the federal government.
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