North

Salary bill goal unclear, says First Nation Chief

A Yukon First Nations leader says Ottawa is sending contradictory messages when it comes to financial accountability in First Nations governments, since financial audits are already available by request from First Nations members.

Liard McMillan says salary information already available to members

A Yukon First Nations leader says Ottawa is sending contradictory messages when it comes to financial accountability in First Nations governments.

On Wednesday, the Conservative government introduced a bill in Parliament that would require elected First Nations officials to disclose their salaries and expenses.

It would apply to First Nations operating under the Indian Act, but not those with self-government agreements.

Liard McMillan is chief of the Liard First Nation, which is one of three Yukon First Nations which would fall under the proposed legislation.

McMillan says Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government removed valuable provisions in an earlier federal accountability act.

Liard McMillan, of the Liard First Nation in Yukon, says accountability is important, but says the government is dealing in mixed messages with their new bill which seeks to disclose salaries for publicly elected First Nations officials. (CBC)

He says those provisions would have allowed forensic audits on individual First Nations when community members raised concerns.

"It's important to have accountability but I just see it as mixed messages and double standards in terms of the way the federal government is dealing with or attempting to address issues of accountability," said McMillan.

McMillan says any member of the Liard First Nation can receive a copy of their audit, which is also presented at their general assembly.

McMillan isn’t the only one who says the bill presents mixed messages.

The Assembly of First Nations says it already makes chiefs' salaries public.

Bill Erasmus, the Northwest Territories Chief for the Assembly says he's confused about why the federal government introduced the bill.

"We're not exactly sure why Canada wants to put this forward. Who is it going to satisfy? Is it going to add to the problems we have in the Indian Act for example, because the Indian Act is to control our people. Is this another way of controlling our people? Those are questions that we have," said Erasmus.

Erasmus says the AFN will bring those questions to Parliament Hill.

He also says the salaries of chiefs and councillors has never been an issue with his members. That information is also already made public through the organization's financial audits.