I have learned as the law has taught me to give opinions with reason, logic and support, the support for my arguments expressed through words should be nothing less than a foundation of research and hard work. In saying that, my analysis of this Act is scratching the surface at best because I have yet to see its application in the courts, much of it imminent I am sure. An Act that appears to be creating more roads to them, than away and judges left with the task of it’s interpretation, analysis, application and ultimate judgment.
So I have read the Act in its form, a small Act with big hands and even bigger implications and at this point, First Nations communities should be posting their financial statements or risk having their funding withheld or any existing agreements in relation to that funding terminated. Hayden King has written an excellent article on possible, probable and likely implications with respect to Canadian society and Native and Non-Native relationships. Thus, I will try not to cover too much of his article avoiding any overlap with respect to societal implications.
The most I can do is offer the perspective of an Anishinaabe from the North who practices law, offering an opinion amongst diverse opinions of First Nations people, plenty to be made about this Act I am sure. In saying that, my opinion of the Act misses an element crucial to providing a sound analysis, I am not a Chief, Councillor and currently do not live in a First Nations community, just a First Nations citizen in love with Anishinaabe people and the Anishinaabe land around me.
However, my opinion is not formulated from an illusional pedestal of ignorance as many good friends are Chiefs and Councillors and many more who voted them in. My work and passion is also with First Nations people, involving a dream of providing a better life to my children and their generation, A dream of wanting to contribute with the skills and knowledge I have attained and using them to gain more, an Education never-ending.
In saying that, the Act in my initial reading appears to state simply, Chiefs and Councillors submit your financial statements or you and your people pay the price, one already paid and will continue, not just financially. Section 10 of the Act gives First Nations members the right to apply to the Superior Court of Justice to compel their leaders to abide by the Act, should finances go unrevealed. Here is the kicker, Section 11 of the Act gives anyone the right to do so, not just First Nations members living on or off reserve, which may have been a relevant clause for those having financial transparency issues with their leaders.
But my biggest issue with this Act is the part where financial statements of the corporate entities in relation to the First Nation must also be posted. Let me tell you why, my law practice involves helping First Nations incorporate or partner with other companies to develop in areas of mostly economic development. They see this as a chance for their people to become self-sufficient, a way to provide for themselves. What we do is set up partnerships in such a way to which the First Nation is protected but run by its Corporation. Thus, legally protected from liability and taxes, but making money, which in turn provides more funding for Education, training, sports programs and social assistance.
This Act will compel these First Nations to submit the blueprints to their companies which encompass their strengths, weaknesses and will be revealed to their competitors in bidding wars, to which there are many. Weakened against their competition, thus, weakening the concept of self-governance or sustainability through economic development, a thesis or belief, which speaks to the fact that in order to escape the chains of poverty, one must provide for oneself, a school of thought encouraged from the same Government imposing legislation to hamper that development. Confusing I know.
So what do I or we do now? We continue to deal with a Government who created an Act to which an ambush was waiting, a media blitz of a select few Chiefs with high salaries plastered on the news. A headline to which reading the story was no longer required or more importantly, a thorough investigation of the facts. Many who believed that our Chiefs were corrupt can now breathe a sigh of relief that they were right.
However, corrupt is not the Chiefs or Councillors I know but rather loving, trusting and compassionate best explains. A reason that what we do now is not worrisome, because how we do it is together, leadership with direction from the people, a concept the Chiefs and Councillors I know follow. An Act that will not weaken, but rather make us stronger.