First Nations diversity

This week I have had a large number of requests for comment regarding the ongoing challenges of the Attawapiskat First Nation, and related events that have occurred recently in Ottawa. To be clear, it is relatively easy to criticize the financial management practices at Attawapiskat. At a time when some are living in appalling conditions, the Chief and her live-in partner who is also the band co-manager have a combined household income reported to be $250,000 per year. When asked about the $250,000 the band co-manager is quoted as “I think it’s adequate for the job that is being done”. A recent Deloitte Audit along with a management letter from the Band’s own accounting firm Ross, Pope & Co., have raised very serious questions regarding the accounting practices and lack of documentation to illustrate where millions in spending has gone. However as easy as it may be to criticize the lack of financial accountability in Attawapiskat, we must also recognize that criticism does little to help those living in Attawapiskat who do not have the benefit of a $250,000 household income. For those living in appalling and unacceptable conditions, very serious challenges remain.

There is also, in my view, a much larger problem; one that was highlighted on Monday, October 15, 2007. It was on this day that Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird gave a historic speech in the BC Legislature to recognize the first reading of a Bill that would ultimately bring into law, a treaty agreement for the Tsawwassen First Nation. Inside the Legislature many First Nations leaders had gathered to celebrate the success of this milestone agreement however outside of the Legislature a different group of First Nations leaders had also gathered to protest against the treaty and related process. This strong disagreement and lack of a consensus based approach within First Nations was what occurred  again last week in Ottawa. While Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo gathered with other First Nations leaders in a meeting with the Prime Minister, other First Nations leaders disagreed so strongly with this meeting that they attempted to create a physical blockade to prevent the meeting from even occurring. The fact that there is such a strong lack of consensus among different First Nations leaders is clearly serving as a barrier to find solutions which would improve the lives of so many.

Closer to home I often asked why instead of protesting, more bands do not follow the example of successful bands such as the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Westbank First Nation. It is important to recognize that there are many variables unique to individual bands that must be taken into consideration; a subject I wrote about in my September 3rd, 2012 MP report. However, one key aspect that both Westbank and Osoyoos share is the ability to utilize band lands for economic development initiatives through long term leases. Ironically one of the provisions of Bill C-45 is to streamline and make it both easier and faster for those bands that do make the decisions to enter into long term leases to be able to do so. In other words, Bill C-45 actually makes it easier for First Nations to follow the same economic principles that have been successful for Westbank and Osoyoos if they choose to do so, and only if they choose to do so. Yet some band Chiefs are opposed to having the process of leasing band lands simplified, even though they can choose not to do so. I mention this point only to put into context the degree of challenge that exists with such strongly differing opinions.

The Solution? As I mentioned earlier, and in my Sept 3rd,  2012 MP report, I believe that each First Nation is unique. As is often the case, one size fits all Ottawa imposed solutions seldom find success in an area where there is so much diversity. I also believe it is important that Government at all levels attempts to engage and work with individual bands on a one to one basis. In my view we must also focus more on the many First Nation success stories and not always on the failures. Fortunately we currently have many great things occurring within the Penticton Indian Band and there is a positive working relationship between the leadership of the Band, and all levels of Government. The projects we are collectively working on will greatly help to increase economic development, employment and revenue for the band and for our region collectively. I am excited at the opportunity that is currently before us, and hope in the very near future this will be a success story unique to our region.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Author

Dan Albas has been a Penticton resident since 1981. After attending Okanagan University College, he chose to move into small business where his company Kick City Martial Arts has flourished, training hundreds of men, women and children to bring out their best. For his work on child safety and awareness, Dan was the recipient Penticton’s 2005 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Dan and his wife, Tara, reside in West Kelowna, where they raise their four daughters.

He has served as campaign chair for the United Way of the South Okanagan-Similkameen in 2006-07 and 2010-11, both times surpassing their fundraising goals.

As a community leader, he was elected to Penticton City Council in the 2008 municipal elections, where, as a first time candidate, he won with 5,656 votes, topping the polls. Through his work as a city councillor, Dan has proven himself to be a strong constituency worker delivering results and standing up for what he believes in. Dan took a leading role on public safety by proposing aggressive panhandling and dog control bylaws; he proposed a review that greatly helped his community to balance the books and to focus on core services by eliminating wasteful or unnecessary spending. His Penticton Politics website blog has offered new ways for constituents to communicate on important issues.

On June 28 of 2012 Dan became one of the first MP’s in recent history to have a Private Members Bill (Bill 311) C-311 become law with the unanimous all party support of both the House of Commons and the Canadian Senate.  Bill C-311 “An Act to amend the importation of intoxicating liquors Act” amended a prohibition era law to prevented the free trade of wine over provincial boarders.

Dan is honoured to serve the residents of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola as their Member of Parliament. He has made good on his commitment to establish a personal blog with his http://www.danalbas.com/mp-report site, where he chronicles his activities as the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

Dan welcomes your input, so please contact him by e-mail, phone or mail. He can be reached at:

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola's MP office

2562-B Main Street
West Kelowna, B.C. V4T 2N5
Email: [email protected]
Phone toll free: 1.800.665.8711
Fax: 250.707.2153

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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