Eight years after federal legislation was put in place for First Nations to try a different form of financial management for trust money, a Saskatchewan band — the Kawacatoose First Nation — has formally signed on.
An official signing ceremony was held Thursday, in Regina, where band chief Darin Poorman praised the new arrangement which removes a layer of ministerial oversight for band decisions on how to invest money.
'They are pioneers in Canada.'- Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt
"We have got the ability, through our Treaty Land Entitlement Trust, to create economic ventures elsewhere — anywhere — in the province," Poorman noted.
Under the new arrangement, the band can move more swiftly to make investments decisions with the money in the TLE trust, he said. Kawacatoose is working with a financial adviser to identify opportunities.
Poorman said he expects revenues from the investments will be spent on "community-based" services including housing and infrastructure.
He said the new arrangement allows the band to assume direct control of capital and revenue trust money.
Previously, provisions of the Indian Act dictated how trust money was to be used and ministerial approval was required before spending decisions were made.
"Direct access to these band funds means more economic opportunities for Kawacatoose First Nation," Bernard Valcourt, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, said Thursday. "Removing this Indian Act requirement means the First Nation can respond more quickly to community needs and opportunities."
Valcourt hopes more will sign on
Valcourt praised the band for being the first to opt into the new arrangement.
"They are pioneers in Canada," he told reporters at the signing ceremony. "I can't wait for the day where all First Nations in Canada will be in that situation."
Kawacatoose leaders had to consult with band members before moving to the new arrangement.
Poorman said the process began about six years ago.
The Kawacatoose First Nation has 3,000 members about one-third of whom live on the band's reserve, which is 120 kilometres north of Regina. The reserve suffered a devastating tornado in 2010 that wiped out 18 homes. It took more than two years for the community to rebuild the lost housing.
The new financial arrangement was created under 2006 legislation known as the First Nations Oil and Gas Moneys Management Act. According to a background note from the government, "Under the FNOGMMA, First Nations communities can assume full control and management of their oil and gas activities on reserve land, or all their current and future capital and revenue moneys currently held in trust for them by Canada, or both."