Three Western Treaty First Nations say they will "resist" the federal government's order to comply with the financial transparency act by tomorrow or risk losing federal funding.
The government tells CBC News that 84 First Nations bands have until the end of Wednesday to post their audited financial statements for the last fiscal year, including the salaries and expenses of their chiefs and councillors. The grand majority — 498 out of 582 First Nations bands — have complied.
- First Nations threaten legal action, blockades if funding cut
- First Nations Transparency Act holdouts given 120 days to post financial data
Under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, First Nations had 120 days after the first quarter to comply with the new rules. In August, the government gave those holding out another 120 days to meet the new requirements.
First Nations from Treaties 4, 6 and 7 say the federal government is "threatening to withhold funding for non-essential services on Nov. 26" and that if they still don't comply after that, "funding for essential services will cease on Dec. 12."
"This tactic is designed to force local compliance to an unjust law by denying families access to essential programs and services," the Treaty First Nations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba said in a written statement on Tuesday.
In a telephone interview with CBC News, Candice Maglione from Treaty 6 said First Nations are not ruling out legal action or blockades if the government cuts their funding.
"We are exploring all peaceful options," Maglione said.
The office of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said bands who had not complied by August were sent "several formal reminders."
"If there is no resolution, for bands that are refusing to comply with the law, the government will take action ... which could include withholding of funding," Valcourt's office said in an email.
"This law was put in place to ensure that First Nation band members have access to the information they require and deserve about basic financial management practices of their chief and council, and to empower them to ensure band revenues are being used for their benefit."
Letter outlines measures Ottawa can take
In a letter dated Oct. 27 obtained by CBC News and sent to at least one First Nations band in Saskatchewan, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs outlines the range of measures the government can take against those who don't meet the Wednesday deadline.
- On or before Nov. 27, the government could require First Nations bands and councils "to develop an action plan" to ensure their financial statements are posted online "as soon as possible."
- On Nov. 27, the government will publish on the Aboriginal Affairs website the names of the bands that have not complied with the new rules.
- On the same date, the government "may withhold funding for non-essential programs, services, and activities until the requirements are met."
- Starting on Dec. 12, the government could choose not to provide funding for "new or additional non-essential programs, services, and activities."
- Also on Dec. 12, the government could either "halt funding" or "terminate" funding agreements altogether.
The Assembly of First Nations told CBC News the government's handling of the new requirements has been "heavy-handed and onerous."
"The results of the audits to date show that the vast majority of more than 3,000 First Nations elected officials are receiving fair and adequate compensation," AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis said in a written statement.
"Recent findings that the government has been quietly shuffling and reallocating money from infrastructure to other programs indicate the government should stop lecturing First Nations and abide by their own principles of accountability and transparency."
Valcourt has publicly said that First Nations that don't follow the law could be subject to "court orders, withholding of non-essential funding and withholding of new funding."