A Moment Like No Other – Accountability for the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation
Mainstream media often portrays First Nations governments as corrupt, inaccessible, greedy, or just outright liars.
While there are a few high profile examples of these types of unacceptable behaviors, more often than not, these portrayals are false or one-sided, and only serve to perpetuate negative stereotypes about our people and our leaders and are not a true reflection of our systems of governance. No, it cannot be said that all leaders are perfect models of ‘impeccable morals in action’, but a great many of us strive to do the best we can within the confines of a system that is either rife with old school politics, colonial mentalities, has had very little attention over time to its internal mechanics, or has typically very few legislative or policy requirements for leaders to conduct themselves in a certain manner – a manner which I think our people are rightly demanding.
So that brings me to the point of today’s post: the Executive Act of the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation.
After months and months of consultation, home visits, one-on-one interactions, reading social media posts, reviewing examples from other First Nations across the country, I believe we have compiled and drafted one of the most comprehensive sets of First Nations accountability legislative works in history.
From the preamble references to our ancestors – those great leaders who had the vision (and the wariness) to protect us by ensuring certain clauses were included in Treaty; references to seven generations and creating a bright future for our children; to a vision of nehiyaw pamisowin – our traditional way of Indigenous governance. Right from the get-go, you see this isn’t an ordinary piece of legislation.
I heard from so many in our community – you told me that there’s too much perceived nepotism, too much favouritism. The new Conflict of Interest clauses – I hope – work to change and eliminate these types of unwelcome behaviors. The new clauses give responsibility and authority to individual members of Council to intervene where “a Council member’s personal interest supersedes or competes with their dedication to the best interests of the Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Willow Cree Nation.” So not only is the authority mandated to members of Council, but the draft legislation also defines these clauses as a duty to act in the best interests of the Nation and our people.
In 2008, a band meeting took place whereby a motion was placed on the floor to make mandatory drug testing for our leadership a reality. This motion passed.
Unfortunately, the motion never made it to reality either due to political unwillingness, or administrative inability at the time.
Earlier draft versions of the Executive Act called for Mandatory Drug Testing. If you review the most current version, you will note that this clause has been changed to make it ‘voluntary’ for members of Council to undergo the testing. I believe this is a step in the wrong direction. So many of you have told me that you want this to be mandatory and I agree with you. If we’re to be true to the spirit and intent of that original motion in 2008, then I think we must change the language back to mandatory with full accountability and transparency in the reporting process to our community.
I believe this motion was originally passed for a reason and I think, as many of you do, that our leaders should conduct their duties free of any illegal substances.
One of my favorite aspects of the Executive Act is surely the Mid-Term Leadership Review.
Have you ever wanted to tell a leader how you really felt without worrying about possible negative repercussions? Have you ever wanted to let a leader know they’re doing a good job, but didn’t want to be seen as favoring a certain person? If you answered yes to these questions, then I think the Mid-Term Leadership Review is part of the answer to your concerns.
We’ve put in place a clause that would allow members of our community to grade the performance of our leaders – a report card if you will – to be conducted on the second Treaty Day of the term.
Here is the draft accountability clause 7.2(c) in its entirety:
The Mid-Term Leadership Review shall:
i) be an opportunity for members of the Beardy’s & Okemasis’ Willow Cree Nation to assess and provide anonymous feedback on the performance of Council’s duties based on established criteria;
ii) be conducted on the second Treaty Day of the term of the current Council;
iii) be conducted by secret ballot; and
iv) be administered by the Director of Operations.
What do you think so far?
Over the next couple days, the Yahkohtewin Governance Planning Committee and members of Council will be reviewing the feedback from our Second Reading consultation session held on September 15th at the Rec Centre. The new feedback you’ve provided will further guide and direct our committee in the preparation of the final draft of the Executive Act and several other key pieces of legislation – including our Constitution.
A Third Reading will take place in the very near future… and a final motion will be called to establish a referendum to adopt these pieces of legislation.
I’ve travelled the country and have heard too often how our leaders are unaccountable – how at election time, they pay lip service to the ideals of accountability and transparency, but in practice, fail to live up to those high standards. I believe the Executive Act, with a few more revisions, can be part of the solution to this problem and I hope you’ll join us at the Third Reading to lend your voice and thoughts to an increasing number of people demanding greater accountability and transparency from our leaders. The moment is here, seize it because it’s like no other.
You can view the draft Executive Act here.
– Councillor Kevin Seesequasis