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FNFTA: transparent hypocrisy and continued colonization

Valerie Lannon

August 31, 2014

It’s hard to keep up with all the examples of Stephen Harper’s hypocrisy as well as his government’s continued colonization of Indigenous peoples. One of the latest is his First Nations Financial Transparency Act. Egged on by his friends in the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Harper developed this legislation to force First Nations band councils to post their financial information on line, where racists and related trolls will no doubt have fun exploring for financial mismanagement and “outrageous salaries.” The bill was passed last year but most First Nations have not yet complied.
What makes this Act so galling is, among other things, the fact that the Harper government decision-making apparatus is notoriously secret in its operations, even attracting criticism from Tory stalwart Andrew Coyne of Maclean’s magazine.
The Act came into effect in March 2013, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada began posting bands’ financial information as of July 2014. Non-compliance could result in a court order or the withholding of federal funds.
Never mind that First Nations have been submitting their financial information to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for decades. And never mind that many First Nations have been posting their financial data online for years, for example the Namgis Nation in BC. The point is, as First Nations have emphasized, that accountability rests with the communities themselves, not the colonial federal government. In addition, by having to share data that includes business development information, bands are having to expose information that would normally be kept confidential from potential or actual competitors, e.g. in logging or fishing operations. 
Tory secrecy
To be consistent, Harper should insist on full disclosure of current and planned financial decisions by his corporate buddies. Not only does Harper have no intention of doing so, he makes life easy for these industrialists by doing little if anything to stop them from diverting billions of dollars in funds to off-shore accounts. This deprives the public of much-needed tax revenue and sure as heck lets these outfits off the hook in terms of accountability.
All of this is of a piece with Harper’s agenda of shutting down sources of information that we the people need to hold the government answerable for its actions. Don't forget this is the same government that cancelled the long-form census, which deprives communities of information essential for planning, e.g. data on changes in demographics, education levels, income, housing status, etc.
And Harper has also been busy muzzling government scientists, lest they reveal too much about our seriously weakened environmental protection regulations and processes, and other threats to our public safety. Even federal departmental libraries have been closing, depriving us of easy access to important research. In spite of government claims that all the information from these libraries will be digitized, according to the Canadian Association of University Teachers, there is no evidence that this has happened in any consistent way.
We need to change all this. We need to respect First Nations’ right to self-determination, including their right to share information with their communities according to the standards of the communities themselves. Meanwhile we have to challenge the real threat to financial responsibiilty and transparency: corporate Canada and their Tory/Liberal supporters, who are wasting billions on militarism and tax cuts while gutting healthcare and education and destroying the environment.

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