The implementation of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA) last year by the federal government is being challenged by five First Nations, with the support of Alberta Regional Chief Craig Makinaw of Ermineskin First Nation.
A hearing was held Wednesday, Aug. 19 and 20 in federal court in Saskatoon, Sask. with the Onion Lake Cree Nation and four other nations challenging the federal government on the FNFTA, stating the act is unconstitutional and being forced to release their financial figures could be harmful to them.
Craig Makinaw, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Alberta, said the money received from the federal government is only a portion of the financials that are divulged.
He said in an interview that by divulging their financial details, the First Nations, that consider themselves as sovereign, are being forced to release corporate financial information. “They are trying to penalize the bands that are successful,” he explained.
“When they report the funds, especially chiefs in other parts of the country, they’re part of corporations, too,” added Makinaw of the consolidated financial statements.
The five nations: Onion Lake Cree Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan, Sawridge Band, Ochapowace First Nation and Thunderchild First Nation state the FNFTA is unconstitutional and an unlawful imposition on the nations.
In a separate hearing, the federal government has attempted to take on eight First Nations in a bid to force them to surrender the information. The First Nations are calling for a halt in the proceedings with these hearings.
One of the arguments the Onion Lake Cree Nation points out is none of the First Nations were consulted on the FNFTA.
Makinaw said providing these corporate statements, something not required of non-aboriginal corporations, may be harmful should they put in a bid for a project.
He added that treaty rights were not considered when Bill C-27, which addresses the FNFTA, was adopted. “The government knows our position but they didn’t follow up or consult with First Nations.”
In a press release dated Aug. 18, Makinaw added he spoke against the bill when it was first proposed.
“It is unfortunate that our efforts to engage and provide our positions to the federal government are ignored and First Nations are forced into the courts to resolve issues, creating a greater financial burden on all parties,” he stated.