The Assembly of First Nations has passed a non-binding resolution calling for chiefs to publicly disclose their salaries and expenses.
The move comes after the Canadian Taxpayers Federation issued a report indicating that many politicians on reserves are being paid as much or more than premiers, and in some cases even more than the prime minister.
'We have nothing to lose and nothing to hide.'—Chief Gilbert Whiteduck, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation
"We stand strong and united and say First Nations are not only not afraid of change and transparency; we are blazing the way forward," said national Chief Shawn Atleo at an Ottawa news conference Tuesday.
"We will set the standards of transparency, not Ottawa bureaucrats."
The AFN disputes salary figures released by the taxpayers federation, claiming the watchdog organization inflated the numbers by including travel expenses and other costs, which in some cases increased remuneration by 30 per cent.
"Figures don't lie, but liars can figure," said Grand Chief Doug Kelly.
The resolution calls for the creation of an independent First Nations auditor general and an ombudsman to ensure all chiefs comply with the transparency rules.
Chiefs also support timely access to First Nations audits and public accounts for itemization and disclosure of salaries, honoraria and expenses.
That information is already submitted to the federal government and is technically available if a band member asks for it, but the resolution urges bands to make the information more easily accessible.
Chief Gilbert Whiteduck from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Maniwaki, Que., says he has pushed for that accessibility and himself already provides those documents online.
"We have nothing to lose and nothing to hide," said Whiteduck, who says he earns a $73,000 salary as the only full-time member of his band council.
Although he warned that some bands might not have the capacity to publish relevant documents online.