Bill forcing First Nations chiefs to disclose their salaries becomes law

·Politics Reporter

By the end of the day, the Harper government's Bill requiring greater public transparency into the finances of First Nations communities will be enacted into law.

Bill C-27 — dubbed the First Nations Financial Transparency Act — means that band councils under the Indian Act will now have to publish their leaderships' salaries and expenses on the Internet for all to see.

Colin Craig from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says this day was a long time coming.

"We’re ecstatic this bill has become law as we’ve pushed hard for it over the last three years," Craig said in a statement.

"Plain and simple, aboriginal politicians should have to disclose their pay to the public just like all other politicians in the country. The federal government deserves praise for addressing this issue.

"This legislation will help people on reserves hold their officials accountable."

A 2010 report by the CTF suggests that there were at least over 30 band chiefs in Canada who more in pay than the average premier. Last year, they profiled Chief Roger Redman who made an after-tax income of $194,737 for leading a band of only 443 people — he makes more than the prime minister of Canada who leads a country of 35 million.

Certainly, it's a policy that makes sense and one that I think most Canadians would agree with.

[ Related: First Nations group marks Exxon Valdez anniversary with an anti-pipeline campaign ]

But it's a Bill that doesn't have the approval of First Nations leadership.

According to APTN News, First Nations' communities were open to publishing their salaries and expenses but they consider this process "heavy-handed."

AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo blasted the new law, saying it “would not support” accountability and gives “more power to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.”

Atleo said the AFN opposed the bill at every stage because it did little to change the broken relationship between Ottawa and First Nations people.

“We do not support unilateralism that further entrenches us in a system that doesn’t work for our people or Canada,” said Atleo. “The answers lie in our communities and with our citizens, not with more control from Ottawa…Canada needs to listen and to act.”

The issue is indeed a controversial topic with strong opinions on both sides. Adding fuel to fire is the fact that it comes on the heels of the Idle No More movement and a sense of growing unrest of the status quo within First Nations communities.

[ Related: Idle No More spokesperson says Harper government continuing First Nations ‘smear campaign’ in newly-released budget ]

Check out this video (albeit shaky video) of a heated exchange between AFN runner-up Pam Palmater and the CTF's Colin Craig at a C-27 press conference in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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