Sunday, March 20, 2011

Whose Chief is it anyways

I often find myself at odds with folks like PacificGatePost who recently posted online at an APTN forum. Pacific argues that all chiefs and councils are corrupt, and thinks Canada and Canadians are responsible for fixing governance issues in First Nations communities. I'd argue that relatively few communities have governance problems and that when they arise it's our responsibility to solve them. Is that not in the end what self-government is about? I thought I’d share the exchange. My last post on the APTN site is still being “moderated” but I have gone ahead and posted it here.
PacificGatePost 21 hours ago

Why is it that Canada and Canadians stand by as First Nations People get abused their First Nation Chiefs and Councils ? ? ? Dictatorships have been allowed to flourish across Canada and abuse of power is rampant. Membership in the bands is in fear of speaking out against the abuse of power or else they won't get the crumbs thrown their way. Is it because it serves the purpose of bureaucrats? The Memberships is held down under the thumbs of their Chiefs? What a sad and pathetic situation, the bureaucrats have enabled.

WardoftheState 8 hours ago in reply to PacificGatePost

Pacific, I wish you wouldn't generalize. I come from an awesome FN community. Our people are very active culturally socially and politically, our books are tight. If we had elected a corrupt chief we'd simply remove him. It's not rocket science. My community is not alone- there are hundreds like mine. You ask why is it that Canada and Canadians stand by and let troubled communities like yours continue? It's not their responsibility. It's yours. Time to put on your big boy pants and stop saying you are too frightened to do anything about it. What would your ancestors think if they heard that? So stop blaming whitey, and stop expecting Canadians to solve all your problems for you. How the heck is some poor urban-living Canadian (some of them quite new to Canada) supposed to know what needs fixing in your community anyway? Besides many of them are busy fixing their own problems.

Still if you do want the government to step back into its "great white father" role (which by the way caused most of the problems we face today in our communities) and run things for you, fine - but please don't generalize and lump us all into this madness. Our community is quite happy to see less and less of the Canadian government interfering in our decisions as we happily sail toward self-government. You sound like a member of Canadian Tax Payers Federation....

And by the way - this whole conversation seems random and unrelated to the above article. It was Carson, from the Great white father's office that started this unfortunate scandal. (really think you want somone like him stepping into your community)

PacificGatePost 1 hour ago in reply to WardoftheState

@ WardoftheState, For you to claim that "there are hundreds like mine," flies in the face of a seriously countervailing wind. Please provide ONE single evidence of a band anywhere in Canada where there has been established a system of Checks and Balances. Just one. The Government of Canada sure doesn't seem to care if any is constituted.

First Nations' circling vultures dressed as advisors, councillors, lawyers, developers, gladhanders, don't want their systems to change. Just like the Immigration Industry, the "First Nations" is growth industry, and a gift that keeps on giving to those who know how to abuse and have the connections. . . And while there may be a rare band led by a benevolent dictator, the system of governance historically and currently exercised is not one that provides equal opportunity for its members nor does it provide oversight or transparency. . . The result is self evident from Victoria to Halifax.
. . . The result is self evident from Victoria to Halifax.

Ward of the State @ Pacific who wrote "Please provide ONE single evidence of a band anywhere in Canada where there has been established a system of Checks and Balances. Just one."

Many First Nations have established measures such as: conflict of interest codes, process for community redress,portfolio systems that identify roles and responsibilities of both Chief and Council vs the band administration. You asked for names and details, at the bottom of this post are links to a few dozen of them. You'll find many more examples online in the government archives.

However my point is that at the end of the day, even with all the checks and balances on paper we, like Canadians, have to hold politicians accountable with our votes. The Canadian system is not at all like the American system where the leader's power is limited. When Canadians elect a majority government, that government pretty much has carte blanche for 4 years. It's not like Canadians don't suffer their own share of scandals and cultures of entitlement in their system. The government imposed band council system certainly has similar flaws, but we have the power to vote them out and the responsibility to keep them accountable to us. Calling on Canadians to take that responsibility for us is lazy, and suggesting that they are at fault when we elect poor leaders is ridiculous. Further, it is absolutely untrue to say that no FN leaders have tried to improve democracy and accountability, as evidenced below.

BC – 45 First Nations develop governance codes – details at:

Saskatchewan – 17 First Nations develop governance codes – details at:

Ontario – 12 First Nations develop new governance codes – details at:

Alberta 8 Projects -

Manitoba – 4 Projects



Anonymous said...

I don't know about other bands, but mine's okay. The chief and council does its best, but there's only so much one can do with the chump change we get from the federal government.
Personally, I think my band can clean up its act when it comes to nepotism, but that's achieved by booting the transgressors out of office. Asking for the semeh to come in and clean up our problems is asking for trouble.
The waste lies in INAC. If people want our Indian Bands to become truly successful governments, then it's imperative to place the blame where it mostly belongs. At the feet of this department, which continues to this day to follow an assimilative policy of 'just enough to keep them alive'. The federal and provincial governments need to reform their policy of working against First Nations governments. It's time for them to start working with us, instead.

Ward of the State said...

All great points Roy, especially the point about INAC. We do tend to blame our chiefs for not "fixing " things that are so obviously out of their control.

I also frankly have frequently marvelled by the number of people who work for INAC and the salaries they collect. I've seen figures from the AFN - although I don't know how they arrive at the numbers - that 20-30 percent of every funding announcement never makes it to a reserve, but stays in Ottawa. Working at Indian Affairs is just bureaucratic welfare.

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