Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Native transparency

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Aboriginal leaders in Canada have done themselves and their causes a disservice by bitterly opposing Ottawa's plan to compel First Nations to disclose key financial information to their members, including compensation for chiefs, councillors and band employees.

Compensation disclosure is basic information that is freely and easily available in a democracy, but most of the country's First Nations have refused to make it available to their members.

The Conservatives first proposed financial transparency legislation when they were elected in 2006, but it is only now about to pass through the House of Commons.

The country's 600 chiefs would have done themselves a favour by opening their books without waiting for the government to force them to do the right thing, but they have instead complained they weren't consulted on the legislation, which they deride as racist.

Many chiefs earn salaries well over $100,000 tax-free, making them among the best-paid politicians in the country. Maybe they're worth it, maybe not, but the point is their people should have the information because those salaries are ultimately deducted from the revenues that might be used for other purposes. The people should have a say in how their leaders are compensated, instead of the current situation, which allows a small cabal of insiders the right to name their price for service.

The transparency law may not spark a revolution, but it will certainly enhance accountability and could lead to demands for more reforms, which are desperately needed to raise the living standards of Canada's first people.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2012 A14

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