Transparency and accountability engagement: What we heard

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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.

On this page

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.

Paris, ON: April 11, 2017

Participants

Approximately 35 participants attended this engagement session. The participants were elected and administrative First Nations and tribal councils. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • Aamjiwnaang First Nation
  • Caldwell First Nation
  • Chippewas of Georgina Island
  • Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point
  • Chippewas of Nawash First Nation
  • Chippewas of the Thames
  • Curve Lake First Nation
  • Delaware Nation-Moravian of the Thames
  • Hiawatha First Nation
  • Mississaugas of the New Credit
  • Mississaugas of Scugog Island
  • Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte
  • Munsee Delaware Nation
  • Ogemawahj Tribal Council
  • Oneida Nation of the Thames
  • Six Nations of Grand River
  • Southern First Nations Secretariat
  • Walpole Island First Nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Paris, ON engagement session:

  • First Nations should report to INAC on federal funding, but should not be required to disclose land claim money, or other own-source revenue amounts to INAC or to the general public
  • First Nations are primarily accountable to their members and should be responsible for developing their own accountability framework. The federal government should not play a role in this except to provide funding and assist in developing capacity
  • INAC should support the capacity of First Nations to generate their financial reports in order to reduce the administrative burden on First Nations governments
  • There should be flexibility in how First Nations report on federal funding and communicate financial results to their membership. Factors such as the size and capacity of a community should be taken into consideration when determining reporting requirements
  • There is a need for the general public to be educated on First Nations issues to understand the historical relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, as well as the context behind finances in First Nations communities
  • First Nations should be given additional funding to hire dedicated financial administration staff to help with the financial management of their First Nation
  • First Nations should be given more time to review annual funding agreements, plan for new projects or initiatives, and spend their funding
  • First Nations have their own policies and practices for transparency and accountability and these should be taken into account when developing a transparency and accountability framework
  • INAC should explore options to support financial training for First Nations members, which could assist them in holding their governments to account
  • INAC should clearly communicate to First Nations why the federal government collects certain financial information from First Nations
  • INAC should better define and respect a nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations
  • There is not a need to create new organizations to provide independent oversight and assurance functions. Current organizations should be optimized before considering introducing new ones
  • As part of a nation-to-nation relationship, there is no role for federal legislation in a new framework for mutual transparency and accountability

Sudbury, ON: April 13, 2017

Participants

Approximately 48 participants attended this engagement session. The participants were First Nations and tribal councils. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • Atikameksheng First Nation
  • Attawapiskat First Nation
  • Batchewana First Nation
  • Beausoleil First Nation
  • Biigtigong Nishnaabeg
  • Brunswick House First Nation
  • Chapleau Cree First Nation
  • Dokis First Nation
  • Fort Albany First Nation
  • Garden River First Nation
  • Henvey Inlet First Nation
  • M'Chigeeng First Nation
  • Magnetawan First Nation
  • Matachewan First Nation
  • Mattagami First Nation
  • Michipicoten First Nation
  • Missinabie Cree First Nation
  • Nipissing First Nation
  • North Shore Tribal Council
  • Sheshegwaning First Nation
  • Serpent River First Nation
  • Taykwa Tagamou Nation
  • Temagami First Nation
  • Thessalon First Nation
  • United Chief & Councils of Mnidoo Mnising
  • Waabnoong Bemjiwang Assoc. of First Nation
  • Waabnong First Nation
  • Wabun Tribal Council
  • Wahgoshig First Nation
  • Wasauksing First Nation
  • Whitefish River First Nation
  • Wikwemikong First Nation
  • Zhiibaahaasing First Nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Sudbury, ON engagement session:

  • The First Nations Financial Transparency Act places uneven accountability and transparency expectations on First Nations. Accountability and transparency should be mutual concepts in a true nation-to-nation relationship between First Nations and the federal government.
  • As part of a nation-to-nation relationship between First Nations and the federal government, information on the federal government's financial activities, such as salaries of federal public servants should be made publically available.
  • The general public should be informed on how First Nations are funded by the federal government for community programs and services to avoid negative perceptions on the misappropriation of funds.  
  • First Nations should provide financial information to their membership, but should not be obligated to disclose this information to the general public.
  • A new framework for mutual transparency and accountability should be flexible enough to account for individual differences in First Nations communities such as capacity issues, size, remoteness and language.
  • There should be flexibility in how First Nations communicate financial results to their membership and the government should not have a say in this. Information also needs to be communicated in a way that is easy for their membership to understand.
  • INAC should provide First Nations with more funding and resources to help increase their financial management capacity, in order support First Nations in being transparent and accountable to their membership. There should be consistency in the practices regardless of the political party in power.  
  • A new framework for mutual transparency and accountability should not result in an increased administrative burden as First Nations already lack the resources to meet current reporting requirements.
  • Existing community-specific First Nation policies and practices should be included in a new framework for transparency and accountability.
  • First Nations should be responsible for developing accountability frameworks that address the unique needs of their community. The federal government should not play a role in this.
  • First Nations adequately supplied their membership with access to their community's financial information prior to the First Nations Financial Transparency Act through audit reports, regular updates to community members, community meetings and webpages.
  • Appeal mechanisms are an important tool for managing disputes and exist in many First Nation communities. These mechanisms should be developed by each community and are especially necessary in communities that lack established accountability frameworks.
  • Reporting practices should be agreed upon by First Nations. The audit is standard for external reporting; however, First Nations should be allowed to choose internal reporting practices and whether they want to release this information to the general public.
  • There is not a need to create new organizations to provide independent oversight and assurance functions. Current organizations should be optimized before considering introducing new ones, in order to avoid the duplication of roles.
  • As part of a nation-to-nation relationship, there is no role for federal legislation in a new framework for mutual transparency and accountability. The federal government should follow a minimum standard for consultation and collaboration when exploring the development of new policies and legislation for First Nations.

Thunder Bay, ON: April 18,2017

Participants

Approximately 80 participants attended this engagement session. The participants were First Nations and Tribal Councils. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • Animakee Wa Zhiing #37
  • Animbiigoo Zaag'igan
  • Anishinabeg of Naongashing
  • Big Grassy First Nation
  • Biigtigong First Nation
  • BiinjitiwaabikZaaging Anishinabe
  • Cat Lake First Nation
  • Constance Lake First Nation
  • Couchiching First Nation
  • Deer Lake First Nation
  • Eabametoong First Nation
  • Flying Post
  • Fort Severn
  • Fort William
  • Ginoogaming First Nation
  • Independent First Nation Alliance
  • Kasabonika Lake First Nation
  • Keewaytinook Okimakanak Northern Tribal Council
  • Kingfisher Lake First Nation
  • Kitchenuhmaykoosib
  • Lac La Croix First Nation
  • Lac Suel First Nation
  • Long Lake #58 First Nation
  • Manitou/Rainy River First Nation
  • Marten Falls First Nation
  • McDowell Lake First Nation
  • Michipicoten First Nation
  • Mitaanjigaming First Nation
  • Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
  • Naotkamegwaning Education Authority
  • Naotkamegwanning First Nation
  • Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation
  • Nokiiwin Tribal Council
  • North Caribou Lake First Nation
  • Ochiiichagwe'babibo'ining
  • Ogemawahj Tribal Council
  • Ojibways of Onigaming
  • Pays Plat First Nation
  • Pikangikum
  • Pwi-Di-Goo-Zing-Ne-Yaa-Zhing
  • Red Rock First Nation
  • Sachigo Lake First Nation
  • Seine River First Nation
  • Shibogama First Nation Council
  • Shoal Lake #40 First Nation
  • Slate Falls First Nation
  • Wabigoon Lake First Nation
  • Wapekeka First Nation
  • Wauzhushk First Nation
  • Wawakapewin First Nation
  • Webeque Education Authority
  • Webequie First Nation
  • Whitesand First Nation
  • Windigo First Nation Council
  • Wunnimin Lake First Nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Thunder Bay, ON engagement session:

  • There is a need for the general public to be educated on First Nations issues to understand the historical relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, as well as the context behind finances in First Nations communities.
  • Mutual accountability between First Nations and the federal government needs to be further explored in terms of what this means. More consultation with First Nations and an increased presence by First Nations at the minister's table is required.
  • Mutual transparency and accountability should not result in an increased administrative burden for First Nations governments.
  • There should be flexibility in how First Nations report on federal funding and communicate financial results to their membership.  Factors such as the size and capacity of a community should be taken into consideration when determining reporting requirements.
  • First Nations are primarily accountable to their members and should be responsible for developing their own accountability framework.  The federal government should not play a role in this except to provide funding and assist in developing capacity.
  • Funding to communities should cover audit fees and salary increases and vary based on geography.
  • The federal government should be more accountable to First Nations and to the general public and there should be a more accurate explanation by the government to the public about the context of federal funding to First Nations to avoid further misconceptions. Participants expressed that INAC should tell First Nations how much it spends on its own internal expenditures annually.
  • The Government of Canada's accountability requirements to the Canadian public must be balanced with First Nations' requirement to have control over the production and dissemination of their organizations' information. As an example, First Nations could 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.
  • First Nations should have flexibility in terms of how they communicate results to their membership. Flexibility is needed considering large differences in factors such as members' financial literacy, access to internet, residence on- or off-reserve, and access to transportation. One participant noted that their community translates financial results into syllabics for the elders to understand.
  • There may be a role for organizations to support communities that are not large enough, or do not have sufficient funding to support a strong administrative function.
  • Consideration should be given to expanding the role of existing organizations to perform oversight and assurance functions before considering creating new organizations, which would cost more money.
  • Participants suggested that funds used to support new institutions would be better invested in First Nation communities to support capacity (to hire financial and retain managers, provide training, and conduct audits).

Prince Albert, SK: April 19, 2017

Participants

Approximately 12 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:

  • Buffalo River Dene Nation
  • Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation
  • Black Lake First Nation
  • Wahpeton Dakota nation

Priorities and key issues discussed

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

  • The federal government should increase its transparency toward First Nations. For example, if First Nations are required to disclose their financial information, then the federal government should disclose how much funding it provides across different portfolios, and ensure that First Nations are receiving adequate support, as compared to other government priorities.  
  • INAC should clearly communicate to First Nations why the federal government collects certain financial information from First Nations.
  • INAC should disclose how much funding it receives from Treasury Board, for each First Nation.
  • A new way forward that supports mutual transparency and accountability should not result in an increased reporting burden for First Nations governments.
  • The general public needs to be continually educated on First Nation funding and spending to avoid misinterpretations.
  •  First Nations should only be required to disclose their own source revenue amounts to their band members, and not to the federal government or the general public.
  • First Nations are primarily accountable to their members and should be responsible for developing their own accountability framework.
  • In the absence of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, First Nations have their own policies and practices for transparency and accountability and these should be taken into account when developing a transparency and accountability framework.
  • 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.
  • The federal government should be involved in First Nations accountability to their membership to the extent of explaining to First Nations leadership the decision-making process and formulas around funding to First Nation communities.
  • First Nations should have a primary role in defining a nation-to-nation relationship with the Government of Canada. A nation-to-nation relationship would include reviewing and changing reporting requirements for First Nation communities.
  • 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.
  • In order to avoid duplicating existing structures, current First Nation organizations for oversight and assurance should be optimized before considering introducing new ones.
  • Any new organizations should not have a national scope, but should operate at a level that allows them to address the unique needs of the First Nation communities they serve.
  • First Nations need long term solutions to help manage debt over long periods of time, as well as to build capacity within their communities. For example, INAC should explore options to support financial training for First Nation band administrators.
  • INAC should prioritize addressing social issues impacting First Nation communities, such as housing and education.

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.

Winnipeg, MB: April 21, 2017

Participants

Approximately 22 participants attended this engagement session. The participants were First Nations and tribal councils. Individuals from the following First Nations and First Nation organizations were present:

  • Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Inc.
  • Pinaymootang First Nation
  • Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation
  • Lake Manitoba Band

Priorities and key issues discussed

Here is a brief summary of what was heard at the Winnipeg, MB engagement session:

  • First Nation reporting requirements should be reduced and a new way forward for mutual transparency and accountability should not result in an increased administrative burden on First Nations.
  • 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.
  • First Nations have their own policies and practices for transparency and accountability and these should be taken into account when developing a transparency and accountability framework.
  • First Nations are primarily accountable to their members and should be responsible for establishing standards for accountability, with support from tribal councils. 
  • First Nations should report on federal funding, but there should be flexibility with regards to disclosing own-source revenue amounts to INAC or to the general public.
  • There should be flexibility in how First Nations report on federal funding and communicate financial results to their membership as long as the information is accurate and clearly demonstrates how the First Nation administration is using the funding.  Factors such as the size and capacity of a community should be taken into consideration when determining reporting requirements.
  • First Nations should use a standard audit format for reporting on financial results; however reports 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.
  • First Nations' chief and council should be the point of contact for appeal processes and additional policies and practices should be developed to guide appeal mechanisms.
  • As part of a nation-to-nation relationship, changes with regard to administrative policies and funding formulas should be clearly communicated to First Nations in a timely manner.
  • The role of INAC should be to set minimum standards for accountability, but this should be balanced with allowing First Nations to operate their band independently.
  • There is a need for the general public to be educated on First Nations issues to understand the historical relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, as well as the context behind finances in First Nations communities.
  • INAC should better define a nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations.
  • An independent First Nation advisory committee should be created to provide oversight over INAC and work with chief and councils to offer support to communities in need of assistance. The committee would be comprised of First Nation representatives from each province.
  • INAC should create a new position within INAC whose role would be to advocate for First Nations, as opposed to acting as a neutral arbitrator.
  • There may be a role for federal legislation to facilitate the creation of an Ombudsman or Indigenous auditor general function; however this may not be beneficial to all First Nation communities. The federal government should explore options for capacity development within existing First Nation organizations before creating new ones.
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