Yukon's Liard First Nation fights to regain control from feds

First Nation's finances were turned over to a third party when it amassed debt and did not meet federal rules for public disclosure.

First Nation calls for federal government to remove third-party manager installed in 2014

The Liard First Nation has been under third-party management as part of a plan to pay down more than $700,000 in debt. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Liard First Nation based in Watson Lake, Yukon, is asking the Federal Court to restore its control of the funding it receives from the federal government. 

The First Nation has been under third-party management for two years. The condition was imposed after it fell more than $700,000 in debt and failed to abide by the Federal First Nations Transparency Act. 

The third-party manager is an Aboriginal-owned B.C., company called Ganhada. The firm said it does not comment on cases, but its relations with the Liard First Nation have been rocky. When it was first appointed it took seven months for Ganhada's workers to gain access to First Nation offices in Watson Lake.  

With a new federal government, the condition should be removed, said Chief Daniel Morris. He wants a 'reset' of the relationship and what he calls a new nation-to-nation dialogue. 

Across the country, the federal government has reinstated some funds frozen under the controversial First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

The Indigenous and Northern Affairs department however, has re-appointed the Liard First Nation's third-party manager.

First Nation locked out says chief

A statement from INAC says third-party managers like Ganhada are supposed to "work with the First Nation to remedy the underlying issues," and help guide nations back to self-government. 

According to Morris, that hasn't been happening.

He said Tuesday he's received no estimate for when the managers' term would end.

"They're telling their staff not to have anything to do with Chief and Council, not to answer," he said. 

Liard First Nation Chief Daniel Morris accused a lawyer of creating 'a tremendous commotion.' (CBC)
But Morris is also facing opposition within his own First Nation.Two of the four councillors have recently quit and some community members have formed a splinter group called "Kaska Concerned about Land Protection and Good Government" and disavowed the Chief. 

Asked if the First Nation could handle its own finances, Morris admitted it was not in a position to do so alone. 

"We don't have the capacity. We need to build the capacity for the First Nation to handle its own programs," he said. 

Morris wants the federal government to replace Ganhada with a new model of co-management, which would see the Chief and Council work with a new accounting firm. 

"We're talking to Deloitte and we have a firm that's willing to sit down with council and put a work plan together. We don't have the same relationship with the third-party (manager) that's there now," he said. 

Court documents also show that the federal government intends to contest the First Nation's request for a federal court review. 

CBC News has contacted the Indigenous and Northern Affairs department for comment.