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Canada: Bill Introduced to Require Aboriginal Leaders to Disclose Salaries

(Oct. 20, 2010) A Conservative Member of Canada's Parliament, Kelly Block, has introduced a bill that would require aboriginal leaders paid salaries from federally allocated funds to disclose their earnings. (A Bill to Create the First Nations' Financial Transparency Act, Bill No. C-575, 40th Parl. 3d Sess., Parliament website, http:/
(last visited Oct. 19, 2010)
.) Block is a Member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, and her bill is a private-members bill, because even though she is a member of the party that forms the current government, her proposal was not adopted by or introduced by the Minister for Indian and Northern Affairs. Block's action followed the release by the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation of information obtained from unnamed sources that reportedly revealed that some leaders of small Canadian reserves had been paid surprisingly large salaries over the previous years. (Mark Milke, First Nations Deserve Transparency, Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick) (Oct. 14, 2010), http:/
) Income earned by aboriginal people on reservations is tax exempt and does not have to be reported. First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo has reportedly stated that the motive behind the bill is “ill-conceived” and that aboriginal groups presently have to file so many reports with the federal government that keeping track of expenditures is extremely difficult. Atleo has also suggested that the questioning of the salaries is part of a pattern of “insinuations” against native leaders. The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation contends that the best way to dispel unfounded suspicions is through transparency. (Id.)

Under the Canadian Constitution, Indian reservations, or “reserves” as they are called in Canada, fall under the jurisdiction of Parliament. Provincial authorities do not have jurisdiction to impose a salary-reporting requirement on native leaders living on recognized aboriginal lands. (Constitution Act, 1862, R.S.C. No. 5, s. 91(24) (Appendix 1985), Department of Justice website, (Oct. 18, 2010), http://laws-lois.justice.g