Okanagan Indian Band defends financial management

There is frustration that all First Nations are being portrayed as poor financial managers.

There is frustration that all First Nations are being portrayed as poor financial managers.

Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band chief, says that while some First Nations aren’t living up to their financial responsibilities, he is concerned some politicians and media are lumping all bands together.

“We are complying. Come look at our books. We have nothing to hide,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be put down simply because we are First Nations.”

There are 614 bands across Canada but Louis says only one-quarter are in financial trouble and have experienced outside management as a result.

“How do you use that to broadly pain over all of us? It’s not 100 per cent, it’s 25 per cent,” he said, adding that federal guidelines for all bands are clear.

“We must submit an audit every year and our books.”

Louis believes the focus on how First Nations operate financially is an attempt by the federal government to divert attention from itself during the Idle No More rallies across the country.

While some of the protests have targeted poverty, housing and other social issues, Louis believes the environment is critical.

“When it comes to the Conservatives, there has been little consultation when it comes to their acts (legislation) and primarily environmental considerations.”

Specifically, Louis is concerned that environmental assessments for development are being reduced in scope.

“It puts management under the proponents who are in a conflict of interest,” he said, adding that the environment should be a priority for all Canadians and not just First Nations.

“When we’re calling for clean water, we’re not the only ones drinking that.”

Louis also believes that the environment is linked directly to many ongoing social challenges.

“Poverty with some First Nations is because of a lack of access to natural resources,” he said.