Yvonne Jones

Your member of parliament for


Labrador

Yvonne Jones

Your member of parliament for


Labrador

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MP Jones speaks to accountability and transparency on reserve

 

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the important question that has been raised by the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

    Of course, I would like to acknowledge first that we are gathered on Algonquin traditional territory.

    My hon. colleague has raised a question this evening that is really directed to one particular case, and it is a matter of public record right now in the country that the case she is raising with regard to Onion Lake Cree Nation is currently before the courts. We understand the frustration that the member may be experiencing as a result of this, but while this case is before the court, there are certain jurisdictions in which we will be limited.

    However, I want to make a statement that I really believe speaks to where we are trying to get with transparency and accountability. First, we want to have a process that will include first nations, and that they will be a part of the solution in designing what this transparency and accountability looks like.

    As a government, this is a priority for us. It is a priority for first nations. It is a priority for their members, and we understand that it will take us a little time to get there, but first nations have been very clear with us, and that is that they do not want a top-down approach, made-in-Ottawa solution because it does not work.

    We saw the former government, of which the member was a part, try that and attempt to do that top-down approach, imposing upon first nations what it felt as a government would be the solution. That is not the practice that we have signed on to. We have signed on to a process of reconciliation and working in collaboration with indigenous governments across Canada. That means we do not impose upon them what we feel is right. We negotiate with them. We come to a consensus on what is the proper accountability and transparency measures that need to be implemented, and those that will work.

    Since last summer, the minister and the department have been working with indigenous organizations, including the AFN, the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association, on ways to enhance mutual accountability.

    The government has also reached out to community members and the leadership through a comprehensive, online engagement process, and now it is ready to embark upon in-person sessions across the country over the next few months. I encourage first nations members to visit the departmental website to learn more about how this process works, and also the government is continuing to work in full partnership with them to improve mutual accountability and transparency.

    We remain committed to the process. We remain committed to establishing a new fiscal relationship with first nations, and in the meantime, we are continuing to invest historic amounts of investment in the billions of dollars in first nations’ education, health care, housing, community development in all areas of the country in all indigenous governments.

Madam Speaker, I would like to assure the House and the member opposite that we are working very hard to get transparency and accountability measures in place. We are working hard to do it in partnership with first nations, and it is already common practice for all first nations to report back, both to their members and to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada with their financial and program performances.

    The member speaks of us as though there is no accountability measure in place at this time, and in fact there is. All first nations governments in the country are still required to report their audited, consolidated financial statements to the Department and to their membership, and of course, we will continue to do more to increase that transparency and accountability.