Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Going to Court Again!

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation maintains position on transparency and accountability – and demands the same of Canada


The following press release was issued by Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation on December 9th.  My comments on the press release follow its text.

December 9, 2014 FortMcMurray, AB – The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), recently named as one of six First Nations threatened with court action for non-compliance with the controversial First NationsFinancial Transparency Act,vows to continues uphold it’s position against the federal government’s ongoing efforts to undermine First Nations leadership and self-determination and welcomes opportunity to defend actions in court.

The ACFN have not signed Contribution Funding Agreements with the federal government since 2012. The First Nations has maintained a position that the federal Contribution Funding Agreements undermine their self-determination by including provisions that would diminish their ability to oppose unfair and unjust amendments to laws and legislation. At the heart of these concerns are the large scale and sweeping changes made to environmental protection and assessment within the omnibus bills in 2012.

 “The Minister is well aware of the fact that our Nation has refused to accept federal funding or sign agreements for band administration for close to three years”, stated Chief Allan Adam. “We have run our offices and provided many services to our members with our own revenues. We are proud of the fact that we provide full disclosures on our administration and businesses to the members of our First Nation, but we refuse to accept that Canada can demand accountability from us when we get no accountability from this government.”

While the ACFN continues to receive indirect funding for essential services like social assistance, health and education through the Athabasca Tribal Council, the ACFN has not accepted or received any funding for band administration, including salaries, from Canada since 2011. Instead, the ACFN has relied on revenues from businesses that employ thousands of individuals and remit millions of dollars in tax revenue to Canada.

“The Minister talks about transparency and accountability—but we know that this government doesn’t practice what it preaches”, continued Chief Adam. “This is the same government that gutted environmental protection and assessment laws in their omnibus bills. This is the same government that unilaterally amended First Nations funding agreements to include provisions intended to prevent us from challenge those unfair laws.”

“It’s because we believe in transparency and accountability that we welcome the opportunity to defend ourselves in court against this unfair and unconstitutional legislation, and this completely unaccountable government”,concluded Chief Adam.


For More information please contact:

Eriel Deranger, ACFN Communications Coordinator 780-903-6598
eriel.deranger@acfn.com


My response to this Press Release:

As a member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), I have read this press release from our First Nation on being named one of the bands threatened with court action for non-compliance with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA) with great interest.  I am troubled by this superfluous press release! Who can afford yet another court battle? 

Unfortunately, the press release does not provide adequate reasons for not complying with the law. It contains both misinformation and unintelligible arguments as to why anyone would welcome being taken to court.  Specially, this quote from the Chief: “It’s because we believe in transparency and accountability that we welcome the opportunity to defend ourselves in court against this unfair and unconstitutional legislation, and this completely unaccountable government.”

Irony is one word that comes to mind.

Let me deal with the issues one at a time.

First of all, with regard to the FNFTA, earlier this year I wrote to my Chief and Council asking them to provide me with the information required by that Act. According to this press release, as a member, I apparently receive "full disclosures" on these matters. Untrue. In reality, what I got was a letter from our band’s lawyer stating that the Act was not yet in force.  In other words, through a lawyer, my Chief and Council informed me that they would provide information to me only when the law compelled them to do it.  Now, of course, they take the position that the law does not apply to them for some reason. Either way, I as a member, am simply being kept in the dark about our finances, and this is directly contrary to what the Chief reports to the media. As a requirement of the FNFTA, full disclosure means to provide this information online for our membership, which as of this posting, has not been done. 

Having said this, I agree with the position of our leadership that the federal government should obtain information only with respect to federal funds being provided. There is absolutely no reason why private business income should have to be disclosed to the federal government.

However, as the press release indicates, Chief Adam has refused to accept federal funding for the past three years on the pretext that "the federal Contribution Funding Agreements undermine their self-determination by including provisions that would diminish their ability to oppose unfair and unjust amendments to laws and legislation.” If there has been no funding provided to our First Nation, then providing a financial report should be simple. Income from federal government 0, income spent 0, income balance 0.  Providing an accounting of this would be far cheaper than going to court. 

Moreover, Chief Adam makes it clear that First Nation’s operating expenses and the provision of services to members is made with "our own revenues." However, the Chief and Council have refused to provide even the most basic information of how decisions to use business revenue are made to its members. I as a member have no idea how profitable these businesses are, what liabilities they have and other basic information that we as the ultimate beneficiaries of these business ventures should have.

The result of this political stance is that the leadership of our First Nation has rejected many millions of dollars of available and much-needed government funding for core First Nation operations. It has been my observation that Chief Adam’s position is based on the erroneous assumption it provides our First Nation with emancipation from the federal government.  The fact is as long as we are under the Indian Act and under the Canadian Constitution we will never be fully sovereign.

Although I also agree with Chief Adam that this federal government has gutted environmental protections and that the development of natural resources needs to be done in an environmentally sustainable way, unfortunately I cannot connect the dots as to how this relates to his position not to comply with the FNFTA.

While we are on the subject of accountability and transparency I think all members of our First Nation need and are entitled to the following information: 
  • We need our Chief and Council to show us in black and white what provisions in the federal Contribution Funding Agreements led them to take the position that accepting federal money means agreeing not to oppose federal environmental and other legislation.
  • We need to know how much federal funding has been refused over the past three years. 
  • We need to know how much business income has been spent over those years to provide basic operations and services.
  • We need to know how these expenditures are explained or justified in the books of our business corporations (the ACDEN Group).
  • We need to know how the First Nation has spent money coming to its Industrial Relations Corporation through Impact and Benefit Agreements with the oil sands industry.
Finally, linking the threat of Canada’s legal action with respect to the FNFTA on Chief Adam’s anti-oil industry activities is baseless.  It simply has more to do with his disregard for the law that we find ourselves in this situation to have to go to court.  He has demonstrated by his lack of accountability and transparency that he has little regard for both Canadian laws and his own First Nation’s laws.  When I asked him in person about the FNFTA during a meeting earlier this year, he simply told me:  “That law does not apply to me.”

“Our own resources” would be far better spent to build and repair our members homes, educate and train our youth, prevent suicide and counsel those who contemplate suicide, care for our elders, address our community’s challenges with alcohol and drug dependency, develop renewable energy projects and community gardens, and on substantive legal challenges to defend our Aboriginal and Treaty rights, and not to justify our Chief and Council’s refusal to share legitimate information with the membership on the basis of some contrived constitutional argument. We have to pick our battles carefully, and going to court should always be considered as our last option.    


Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's My Birthday!

Google loves my b'day too! 
Today is my birthday!

I would call my mom on my birthday and wish her a happy birthday. She'd say it's not my birthday, and I would say, yes, it's OUR birthday!  It's the day she brought me into the world, and a day that should be celebrated.  Unfortunately, she is now in a long-term living care facility and  I can't call her because she can't hear me on the phone anymore.  But in a few days, when I am in Alberta,  I will go visit her.

SNAP SHOTS OF MY DAY!

Looking for beauty and joy in my everyday life. I see how fortunate I am to have a big loving family, and dear friends.  Life a is like a flower unfolding, opening up to complete perfection, wonder and mystery. 
Love my Roses! A dozen white and Red Roses, perfect!


Can't wait to get my teeth into this!

Andrew and I have a job to do!

River is starting to freeze! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Spirit of the Holidays!

I wrote a blog post in 2008 about the stress of the holidays.  My sentiments remain that same over the years and therefore I am reposting it here again.

If you are having a difficult time or you're feeling stressed, call up a friend or family member and visit over coffee.  Take the attention off your situation by doing something for others, it can actually create happiness. Donate your time to help others, or visit a person in the hospital or retirement home. At the very least acknowledge people you see by greeting them with a with a smile.  :)
From our home to yours, Happy Holidays!


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