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Secret document reveal sweeping new rules for natives - G & M


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The document, stamp SECRET, date from February 2008, and as 28 pages
(it is in a pdf dowload link on the front of the G & M). It could be "not current with
today position"

Secret document reveal sweeping new rules for natives

The federal government is secretly planning an overhaul of the rules governing Canada's
reserves that is far more sweeping than what Ottawa is telling Canada's chiefs and native

Documents show the government wants to address concerns over the way native leaders
are selected, including the fact that not all communities use secret ballots, have clear
term limits or written rules for picking leaders. But addressing these very issues triggered
widespread protests from native leaders six years ago when the Liberal government
brought in its doomed First Nations Governance Act.

Native leaders have warned Ottawa not to re-open the governance file unless it is willing
to hold wide-ranging consultations to ensure the changes protect native rights and are
affordable to bands.

Now, hundreds of pages of classified documents - including a draft memorandum to
cabinet, and other Indian Affairs notes marked "secret" and "protected" - obtained by
The Globe and Mail show that the government is moving ahead in these areas with far
more limited consultations than what native leaders have demanded.

The documents include a series of briefing notes and presentations drafted by Indian
Affairs officials over the past year as they prepared a new policy aimed at improving
the accountability of band leaders for the funds they receive from Ottawa.

The documents make repeated references to the First Nations Governance Act of 2002,
noting that while the Liberals abandoned it due to the controversy, there is still a need
to address the outdated rules governing the way reserves are run.

In an interview, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said it is "completely untrue" that
his department is secretly proposing measures that were in the Governance Act. "There
is no legislation planned and so it's not like the Governance Act," he argued. "But my
goodness, if you want to scare people in first nations country, you just talk about
[former Liberal Indian Affairs minister] Bob Nault's Governance Act."

That assurance appears to be contradicted by the documents, which show the areas
being addressed in the Conservative reform - such as ensuring secret ballot elections
and allowing all off-reserve members to vote - are the very issues that were at the
heart of the Liberal initiative. In fact, the minister changed his tone when told The
Globe had documents describing the measures as a less-ambitious version of the
Governance Act.

"Trust me. When we do the review, it won't be to say: 'How do we make things less
accountable and less transparent?' " he said. "And I'd be very surprised if any First Nation
nowadays would say the objective is less transparency and less accountability."

One document marked secret and dated Feb. 19, 2008, asks for the approval of Indian
Affairs' associate deputy minister to seek cabinet's approval to change the policies for
funding band councils. It describes the measures as "less ambitious" and "more modest"
than the Governance Act. But it also recommends that the new policies "would not be
optional." The documents suggest the new policy will revive the central elements of
the Governance Act, including mandatory rules for bands on how to conduct elections
and make their spending public to members.

Since the defeat of the Governance Act, Ottawa has faced calls from editorial writers
and groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to revisit the issue of accountability
on reserves. While the documents note these pressures, they also show that Ottawa is
knowingly exposing itself to the same charge of inadequate consultation that doomed the
Governance Act.

The documents say that Indian Affairs scaled back its budget for consulting native leaders
to $1.2-million from $5-million, and produced a communications plan aimed at keeping
the changes quiet. "A low-profile communications approach is recommended," states
one document, titled "communications strategy" and marked "protected."

Under the heading "risks," a July 10, 2008, Indian Affairs presentation states that it may
look like Indian Affairs "has already decided" on its reforms and that "with little time and
funds, first nation participation will be limited."

After the consultation meetings with some aboriginal leaders, the government is aiming
for the changes to take effect on April 1, 2010. Because the changes will be brought in
as new policy rather than a new law, they can be implemented without triggering a debate
in Parliament over legislation.

The documents indicate a desire to challenge the selection of community leaders by "custom,"
a broad term that allows use of native traditions that do not always involve secret ballot
elections or written rules. Further, another document indicates Ottawa wants to impose
access-to-information rules on reserves, a measure the Conservatives were unable to win
support for as part of the 2006 Federal Accountability Act.

The documents also show the government is not telling chiefs one of its main motivations
for changing the way band employee pensions are funded. Indian Affairs told chiefs in a
written letter the changes will "simplify" reporting duties.

However, the documents show the change is motivated at least in part by a desire to get
Ottawa off the hook in the face of possible lawsuits for under-funding pensions and ignoring
mismanagement of pension funds. "It wouldn't surprise me that that's in the mix of discussions
and it should be, but that's not the driving force behind the process," Mr. Strahl said.

A spokesperson for Indian Affairs, Margot Geduld, declined to answer a list of specific
questions for this story. "We don't comment on leaked documents," she said.
It was likely marked secret because it's only a working paper with brainstorming ideas and they didn't want the media to get it and blow it all out of proportion.

Just like the Mop & Pail is trying to do.

Another slow news day I'll wager :boring:
I read all of the documents linked in the article and they are far from evidence of a "hidden agenda" or secret plot.  In fact they argue for increased funding and supports to increase governance capacity on reserve.

No doubt the G and M article was fed to them by the Assembly of First Nations, who are in essence a wing of the Liberal Party (all of their senior advisors are Liberals, and they are very open about pushing a Liberal agenda at their assemblies).  They spin anything put out by the government and turn it into mid-election style propoganda.  The AFN does more damage to the First Nations cause than INAC does thats for sure by sabotaging federal initiatives at every turn. 

This is a strong step in the right direction.