10 September 2015

#40 Clouding the Issue

Accountability is an important thing, no doubt about it. That’s why organizations and companies have audited financial statements, and these have to be accessible to the members (or shareholders) and funders, when there are any. That’s the way it has been for Indian Bands (federal structures imposed on First Nations by the very outdated Indian Act). These bodies have dutifully filed their audited financial statements with Indian Affairs and they are available as well to band members, either through the federal department or directly from the band.

There’s always been a certain amount of overreach in this, like there is for the financial reporting requirements the federal government applies to all organizations it funds (I can’t speak for the subsidies to companies, which I suspect have lighter requirements). Why, for example, should I have to account to the federal government for the totality of my insufficient funding when the federal government supplies a very small part of it? Surely they need an accounting of the money they provide, but they require an accounting of the totality of it. It being easier and less costly to produce a single global audited financial report, that is what they get.

Playing on bad perceptions of First Nations, the federal government moved to make Indian Bands post their financial statements on publicly accessible websites, under pain of having their funding withheld if they failed to comply. Do companies have to do that? Companies that receive subsidies from the federal government? Nope. Just the people we like to demonize while we provide insufficient funding for their health and education — but that’s another story, to come.

We are probably lucky that the deadline for the posting of these things fell within the enormously long electoral campaign, as many bands had “failed” to comply, and I don’t think that withholding funding to first nations people during the election campaign is something that the government wants to do. Look out on October 20th, though, if the government doesn’t change.

Further reading here

We took all the land
We mete out pittances, now
you account for them!

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