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Dene Nation calls transparency law discriminatory, unlawful

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus has called the federal government’s First Nations Financial Transparency Act discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Erasmus has spent the last two days at a hearing in Saskatoon, where lawyers representing the feds are trying to persuade a judge to force five First Nations to open their books to the public.

The reserves meanwhile, are protesting Bill C-27, which since last year requires all bands to post their salaries and audited financial statements online.

“The First Nations are saying that’s unconstitutional,” Erasmus told Moose FM from the hearing.

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“They’re quite willing to present their financial statements to the federal government and to their own people but they should not be published.

“They’re even asking for minute details on spending for corporations who are very competitive.

“That can be very detrimental for our organizations because it takes away their ability to function as good businesses.”

Erasmus says approximately 250 of 630 First Nations across the country haven’t complied with the legislation. Bands that fail to do so risk having funding withheld from them.

“As governments, our people have to be trusted,” said Erasmus. “They have to be able to function as governments and it’s really clear that this legislation is discriminatory.

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“This type of legislation isn’t there for municipalities, provinces or other forms of government in the country.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt believes the act will lead to more effective and accountable governance.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nation, hopes the government will agree to revamp the law if the judge rules in the band’s favour.

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