First Nations Transparency Act may do more harm than good: Hayden King

Aboriginal people may find themselves with even less power to create change

By Hayden King, for CBC News, Canada, Aug 02, 201


The First Nations Financial Transparency Act may result in aboriginal people finding themselves with even less power to create change.The First Nations Financial Transparency Act may result in aboriginal people finding themselves with even less power to create change. (CBC News)


This week the federal government’s legislation, The First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA), was made law.

Financial statements and salaries of First Nation council’s were posted on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s website earlier this week. And those councils who refuse to participate will face a court order.

According to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, this is an effort to provide First Nations people with transparency and allow them to hold their elected leaders accountable. In other words, to empower them.

Given the early reactions to the publication of this data, I don’t share the assessment. So what can we expect?

First, we can expect the media to find a handful of chief and councils that pay themselves unjustifiable salaries.

This reporting has already begun and at least one B.C. chief has found himself on national news broadcasts and other national media for consecutive days.

AFN National Chief Ghislain Picard says the act calls for disclosure of information above and beyond that of other governments, including potentially sensitive information about business dealings. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
AFN National Chief Ghislain Picard says the act calls for disclosure of information above and beyond that of other governments, including potentially sensitive information about business dealings. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Of course, this information is important to know. But we can also expect the media to do little else. Few will cover the hundreds of chiefs and/or councils that make $10,000 a year. Few will examine the extreme AANDC underfunding this new data reveals.

Few will ask critical questions about the consequences of First Nations (which are often both governments and corporations) disclosing the details of business dealings with current and/or future negotiating partners.

Second, because of the likely superficial media reporting we can expect many to run with the popular “corrupt chief” narrative to shape their desired policy changes.

Many so-called experts on First Nations peoples in the media and politics will generalize to indict all leaders as taxpayer leeches (though the language will be more delicate).

‘With the media identifying the problem of corrupt chiefs and so-called experts proposing assimilatory solutions, there will be confirmation that the Indian problem is the Indian’s own fault’– Hayden King

Certainly we’ll see organizations like The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which spearheaded the legislation in the first place, use the generalization to call for the erosion of treaties, end of “special” Indian status, privatization of reserves, etc. While taxpayer activism is certainly common, it seems to provoke a special kind of fury when involving Indigenous Peoples.

Third, we can probably expect many Canadians to harden their perspectives on First Nations peoples.

With the media likely focusing on the corrupt-chiefs problem and the so-called experts proposing assimilatory solutions, that will be confirmation for many that the Indian problem is the Indian’s own fault.

And since the challenges indigenous people face will be perceived as a self-inflicted suffering, many Canadians will feel absolved of any responsibility to First Nations, and will instead feel permitted to cast judgement and simply wait for civilization to reach the natives.

In short, the transparency act will be an effective tool to solidify apathy and disengagement with indigenous perspectives and ideas.

Fourth, we can probably also expect the federal government to double-down on the unilateral “aboriginal” policy that has been ongoing for some time.

This includes stripping communities of power in areas of social policy, extinguishing rights and title, reducing program resources, andgenerally trying to transform communities into municipalities under provincial jurisdiction.

With the First Nation leadership being stripped of legitimacy, and Canadians oscillating between aloof and angry, much of the opposition to this increasingly transformative trend will be neutralized. The FNFTA may actually grant AANDC greater licence to intervene in the lives of indigenous peoples.

Finally, we can expect First Nations people to use this data to continue to hold their leadership accountable.

The reality is that most communities already have access to this information (and much more) and generally they do not skirt or ignore issues of bad governance.

From the broad Idle No More movement to specific cases like the ongoing Wahta Community Fire in central Ontario (where a Kanien’kehá:ka community shut down its administrative building because the band council wasn’t following transparency rules), the formal and more provocative examples of communities holding leaders accountable and pushing for new (or very old) governance models independent of the Indian Act are numerous.

‘In an era where reconciliation actually means confrontation and our public discourse is often shallow, every new policy, law, court decision, protest and blockade is a struggle to shape the narrative’– Hayden King

All of this is not an argument against the legislation itself or an endorsement of the status quo.

Aside from the obvious absurdity of Canada continuing to dictate to and administer First Nation communities, the content of the legislation is relatively benign. But the consequences may be significant.

In an era where reconciliation seems more to mean confrontation and our public discourse is often shallow, every new policy, law, court decision, protest and blockade is a struggle to shape the narrative.

Despite what Bernard Valcourt claims about the FNFTA, First Nations may find themselves with even less power to create change.

Tulalip man known for helping others needs help

Randy Ervin and family. , Photo by Alyson Pennant
Randy Ervin and family. , Photo by Alyson Pennant

Randy Ervin’s GoFundMe campaign opened to help deal with life changing stroke


By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News

Randy Ervin is a guy who loves life. Ask his many friends who have enjoyed, or lovingly suffered, his bizarrely funny bitstrips and constant Christmas countdowns. He’s also a friend, a mentor, a beloved co-worker and leader. He’s a beacon of hope for those in recovery, and a poster child for living better sober than addicted. Since February 25, Randy has been completely incapacitated after suffering a massive stroke. He is looking at returning to a two-story home and full time caregiving, with no prospects of returning to a normal life anytime soon.

Randy’s wife of 23 years, Tina Ervin, painted the picture.

“I left the house on February 25, I was only gone for about half an hour,” she explained. “I came home and he was sitting in the chair and he was just sitting there. He was non-responsive. I pulled up on his face, and I said, he’s having a stroke.”

Randy was in a medically induced coma for a week and a half. Doctors kept him breathing with a ventilator while they monitored the swelling in his brain. It took another two weeks to slowly bring him out of the coma.

“His right side is paralyzed,” Ervin said, describing her husband’s symptoms. “He’s learning how to speak all over again. He lost the ability to form words when he tries to talk and he’s learning to write with his left hand.

“If you write ‘apple, banana’ and leave an open space, he’s trying to figure out what to put in that open space, but he can’t tell you that the line of words means fruit.  His brain is still not firing the way it should. Three hours a day he’s in physical and speech therapy, they’re teaching him how to use the other side of his brain.”

Family and friends aren’t the same for Randy either, many of his memories are missing because of the stroke.

“He didn’t recognize his brother, his best friend,” said Ervin. “Our anniversary is the 23rd of this month [March], and he didn’t even remember that. But he did recognize Pete Warbus from the casino. He loves his crew and his job. Other than his family, that’s his life.”

A family friend, Mike Pablo, helped Ervin set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money for Randy’s expenses, which are numerous. The stroke is the most recent in a cascade of medical complications. In 2013 Randy was diagnosed with a tumor in his colon. Because colon cancer runs in his family, the best option was to remove it surgically. After the surgery, things went downhill quickly.

“He was eating dinner and he coughed,” said Ervin. “His shirt started filling up with blood. By the end of the night it turned brown and started to smell really bad. He stood up and it just gushed out of his belly. I rushed him to the hospital and the surgeon said, ‘Why did you wait so long!’

“They said his small intestine blew out like an inner tube blows out if you fill it too much. From there, his kidneys shut down. He spent more than 48 days in the hospital. It was a long road, but he finally went back to work December 23rd. The aneurysm came out of nowhere.”

Because of his ongoing medical care Randy has no paid time off remaining, leaving his family deprived of the primary breadwinner. Because his leave has been exhausted he will likely lose his job at the Tulalip Resort, a job that currently provides the medical insurance paying for his care. Ervin said they’re doing what they can, but she’s concerned about how to pay for ongoing medical expenses and the necessary remodel of their home.

“I talked to Jay Napeahi in housing because my house is not set up for a wheelchair and I don’t have a full-sized bathroom downstairs. In the meantime they’re going to put us up in a duplex. We’re trying to raise some funds, we’re going to have to buy a wheelchair and some other equipment and I’m not sure how much his insurance will cover.”

His co-workers are doing what they can.

“We are definitely feeling the loss of him not being here,” said friend and co-worker Ashley Hammons. “It was a mess here, and everyone was trying to hold it together. ”

Resort employee Aliana Diaz agreed.

“It was pretty bad to the point where we approached the Employee Assistance Program and let them know that several of our team members were affected by it. I was giving them a heads up that people might need them.”

Slot Assistant Director James Ham, who has known Randy for years, described the outpouring of support, “Randy did a lot to give back. He would talk to anyone in addiction and recovery, he was reaching out constantly. I’ve seen a lot of people donate hours, there’s definitely been an outreach here.”

Coping with medical bills, the trauma of becoming a full time caregiver and the unknown challenges of the future might seem overwhelming, but Ervin’s been too busy to dwell on it.

“Ever since this happened it’s been, ‘What’s the worst case scenario?’ I’ve just tried to get everything going rather than sitting around and crying all the time. Right now we need a different bed, probably just a full size, because our water bed is too big [for the duplex].”

If you would like to help Randy’s family, check out and search Randy Ervin. The family is hoping to raise $15,000 to remodel the family’s home and get Randy set up for full time caregiving. As of March 25, $1,270 has been raised towards that goal. Ervin said every bit helps.


Crowdfunding is becoming the new hand up


At the Tulalip 2014 Annual General Council, Tulalip Tribal citizen Mike Pablo made a motion to create an emergency relief fund for tribal members who are in need, either due to emergent medical situations, or because of natural disasters, fire or other catastrophes beyond their control. When he made the motion he was thinking about Tulalip citizen Randy Ervin who recently suffered a life-altering stroke. The motion was tabled, so instead, Mike helped the Ervin family to set up a crowdfunding site.

Increasingly, crowdfunding has become a way for people to directly support their causes. Whether it’s Matika Wilbur’s use of Kickstarter to launch Project 562, a photo project documenting contemporary Native America, or Randy Ervin’s GoFundMe campaign, citizens are turning to their peers, rather than a government agency, for assistance.

Crowdfunding isn’t new, in 1884 the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty ran short on money and Joseph Pulitzer launched an enormously popular fundraising effort. More than 125,000 people donated (mostly donations of less than $1) ultimately bringing in over $100,000. According to the website, $1 in 1884 is equivalent to $24.50 today. So, a similar donation by modern citizens would mean about $25 each to raise around $2.5 million. This example is clear evidence that financial support for a cause doesn’t have to be a financial burden in order to be effective.

Crowdfunding quickly becoming a way for tiny businesses, broke inventors, and unknown musicians to launch a career. Unlike traditional investing, crowdsource funding doesn’t promise a return on investment, just the knowledge that your money is directly funding a cause that you support. According to the 2013 Massolution Crowdfunding Industry Report ( crowdfunding is anticipated to bring in $5.1 billion in total global funding for the year.