Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Madam minister, as you know, the Assembly of First Nations is holding their Special Chiefs Assembly on Federal Legislation today and tomorrow in Gatineau. On the agenda is the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. This act was passed in 2013.
When we studied this bill at committee, we heard overwhelming testimony that First Nations governments already provide regular audits to the department and are required to do so under then existing contribution agreements.
There’s a member of the Senate that has consistently suggested that First Nation governments do not adequately account for the federal funding allocated to them.
Senator Beyak has stated:
It seems like our priority is skewed so I have asked for a national audit of all dollars coming in and out of all reserves.
Madam Minister, in an effort to set the record straight, can you briefly explain the requirements for First Nation governments to provide regular audits and accounting for all federal funding they receive?
Hon. Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs: I thank the senator for giving me this opportunity to set the record straight.
As you know, mutual transparency and accountability are an ongoing priority for everybody. We in government need to do a better job, as we’ve just heard from the senator opposite. We have to be accountable for the money that we are spending. I think that during the Kelowna Accord, the suggestion of a First Nations’ auditor general was there, and I know that is part and parcel of some of the negotiations going on now on a new fiscal relationship with the communities for whom the Assembly of First Nations is working.
To be clear, right now First Nations are required to report to the Government of Canada for every program dollar they receive, be it through audited financial statements or progress reports and output reports for the more specific programs. It is about us moving forward in a transparent way, but I really do think it is important for people to understand that we as a department do have the audited financial statements and are able, therefore, to determine future dollars in that community based on those statements.