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Canada’s takeover of Aboriginal finances has left a legacy of substandard homes and polluted water

Galvey First Nation is finally starting to recover.

For decades, the Ojibway community north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, has suffered a series of disasters almost unparalleled among non-Indigenous communities.

A 2004 study found that about half of the 100 First Nation homes were dilapidated and uninhabitable, mostly due to mold. Today, dozens of houses have been replaced and more are planned. Community boiling advisories will soon be officially lifted, ending 13 years of water supply interruptions. Gal Bay now has a positive balance on its books, according to Chief Wilfred King. This is a win for a community where he once had $11 million in debt.

The country’s finances spiraled out of control in 2004 when it was managed by a “third-party administrator” appointed by the federal government.

“or [set] Referring to the period from 2002 to 2010, Chief King said. It’s just a lot of people making money on our shoulders. ”

Chief Wilfred King says Galvey First Nation’s finances began to spiral out of control in the early 2000s when they were managed by government-appointed “third-party administrators.”Photo by Stacey Barry

Canada’s intervention in Gull Bay gives authorities the option to place First Nations under trust if they believe the Mayors and Council are not managing their funds responsibly. The federal government announced plans to replace the Default Prevention and Management Policy (DPMP) in 2017.

research by Canadian National Observer Researchers at Toronto Metropolitan University also examined the impact on indigenous peoples of policies implemented between 2008 and 2016. A federally appointed “default manager” was found in more than half of the cases sharing or controlling the finances of Indigenous Peoples. , the condition of the community worsened, but not better.

Infographic by Ata Ojani

In at least 65 of the 112 First Nations, communities experienced prolonged boil advisories or an increased proportion of homes in need of major repairs. Indigenous peoples, on the other hand, were forced to take control of things themselves, and the situation was more likely to improve.

A federal financial intervention program created new water and shelter difficulties for at least 65 indigenous peoples during its implementation, according to @NatObserver research. #cdnpoli

Data from the Canadian Indigenous Services Agency (ISC) show that in all cases for which records are available, the boil advisory was issued after the federal government imposed the DPMP.

“We should file a class action lawsuit,” Chief King said. Canadian National Observer I shared with him the results of two years of research. The federal government will be held responsible for any damage experienced by the community, he said.

“This policy here is designed to push back Indigenous peoples and push them back,” said Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe of the Anisinabek Nation, an organization representing 39 Indigenous peoples. said. “The community that has gone through this needs some kind of compensation.”

Infographic by Ata Ojani

The research team constructed a database using ISC documents and data obtained by Siri Pasternak of Toronto Metropolitan University through the Access to Information Act. The impact on housing was quantified using Statistics Canada data on housing repairs needed and number of homes. The team is gathering more information during this period to better understand the impact on First Nations administered under the DPMP, which has been collected so far on the impact of the policy. may constitute the most comprehensive information available.

Indigenous Services Minister Patti Haido declined to comment. In response to questions, an ISC spokesperson noted that the federal government acknowledged problems with its intervention policy in her 2017 report and is “replacing it with new proactive approaches to support capacity building.” .

The ISC currently manages 93 Indigenous Peoples under the DPMP, but currently only one is under third-party control, the policy’s most restrictive form of trust. If default managers still work for the band, they are now paid through a dedicated federal fund.

The ISC acknowledged that chronic underfunding of First Nations programs and services by the federal government has hampered the ability of leaders to provide them and prepare the DPMP for enactment in the first place. “That’s why, since April 2016, Canada has committed more than $14 billion of hers to improving infrastructure in First Nations communities,” said a federal ministry spokeswoman.

A 2004 assessment found that about half of the homes in Gal Bay were uninhabitable.Photo by Stacey Barry

“This is the ultimate manifestation of the power of the Canadian nation,” said Charlie Angus, NDP MP of Timmins James Bay, an equestrian that includes First Nations governed under the DPMP. “The results are clear.

“In which municipality in Canada does the government arbitrarily take out mayors and mayors and councils, people who do not live in the community, people who have absolute and complete control?” he said. Said. “That’s colonialism.”

Angus said the data describes his experience in politics over 18 years. As a former critic of Indigenous and Northern Affairs for the NDP, a division that has since been disbanded and replaced by the ISC, he has seen housing conditions for Indigenous peoples deteriorate while riding and across Canada. . As for First Nations, which was put under the control of a third party, “we couldn’t sign a contract for the building,” he said.

After the DPMP was formalized in 2001, federal officials repeatedly warned Canadian leaders of its failures, according to internal documents obtained by the team. Until 2017, it was managed by the Department of Indigenous Peoples and the North.

Former General Accountants have pointed out that highly paid default managers, who often make between $160,000 and $420,000 a year, have no incentive to return control to the First Nations. By 2008, most employees had held the position for more than ten years. The number of First Nations administered under all forms of this policy peaked at over 180 in 2004 and then stabilized at around 150 until 2017.

A 2003 federal audit report labeled the financial management policy “punitive” and noted that third-party managers needed more guidance on how to repay their debts. Management made poor infrastructure decisions and some government officials failed to follow federal tender rules when hiring, the audit said. The federal audit team wrote in his 2003, “There was no public tender or indication of a public tender for the work.”

Nayomi Metallic, assistant law professor at Dalhousie University and member of the Listogzi Migmak Indigenous Peoples, said the DPMP would create a “vicious circle” that would exacerbate poverty and increase debt among Indigenous peoples already facing budget deficits. , said it had trapped these communities for a long time. – period crisis.

“They kind of keep them in a poverty trap,” she said.

The team found that there are large regional differences. In Manitoba, between 2008 and 2017, federal officials controlled nearly 90% of Indigenous people under the policy, while BC officials imposed it on her 15% of Indigenous people. did.

Today, the Galle Bay First Nation can rebuild dozens of dilapidated homes.Photo by Stacey Barry

Current and former default administrators and federal officials explained in interviews that the department’s local offices have a great deal of autonomy. However, in many cases, indigenous peoples were placed under government financial control. It simply reallocated funds from one sector to another, from post-flood education to road maintenance, to solve the budgetary emergency caused by federal funding shortfalls.

In Galvey First Nation, after a new third-party administrator was introduced, the Chief and Council tried in vain to oversee the nation’s debt. Galvey’s leadership fought both the default manager and the federal government in court in 2006, successfully gaining access to the documents. The presiding judge noted in the decision that the manager had processed a request from Galvey’s leadership “somewhat obnoxiously (sic) with considerable delay.”

Galvey switched to joint management in 2010 and retains this status for bookkeeping purposes, Chief King said. As with many remote communities, it is difficult for Gull Bay to find qualified financial professionals to manage federal reporting requirements, and most experts believe that this is beyond the capabilities of an experienced CPA. suggesting that

However, Grand Council Chief Niganobe said the threat of federal intervention remained, as the policy had never been completely abolished.

“If you really want to decolonize something, get rid of it all,” he said.

— Using files from Rob Houle, Declan Keogh, Michael Wrobel, Jaida Beaudin and Karina Zapata. This report is based on work done in partnership with the “Clean Water, Broken Promises” consortium.

If you are a First Nations member governed under the DPMP, or would like to learn more about the data and documents collected by the team, please contact us at: [email protected]

Canada’s takeover of Aboriginal finances has left a legacy of substandard homes and polluted water

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