Deloitte-Touche did as requested, and the reaction was predictable. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:
The audit is out, the verdict is damning. As reported by CBC News, an independent assessment of six years of transactions on the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation reserve reveal “no evidence of due diligence.”
Auditors Deloitte and Touche concluded that out of 505 transactions, “an average of 81 per cent of files did not have adequate supporting documents and over 60 per cent had no documentation of the reason for payment.”
The argument is, "those who can't control their finances deserve no sympathy." Let's recall that, when the crisis erupted at Attawapiskat last year, Stephen Harper's solution was to send in an accountant. Let's also recall that, eighteen months ago, the Harper government was found in contempt of Parliament for not revealing the cost of jet fighters and prisons. Now they refuse to let Kevin Page see the budget cuts they are making.
Worse still, the Harperites claim that natives peoples' inability to account for their spending makes them the source of their misery. Rather than seeing the audit as a symptom, the government claims it is a cause. Ultimately, the Conservatives say, Canada's native peoples seek to hide and avoid the truth.
But, writes Michael Harris, we are approaching a moment of truth:
Does anyone really believe the PM has had a conversion on the road to Attawapiskat? How long will he contribute to the working session? Does anyone think Chief Spence’s call for action will be answered by anything other than the bureaucratic sludge in which these events are normally embalmed?
What Idle No More is asking for is changes in Bill C-45, the omnibus budget bill which has gutted Canada's environmental legislation:
The Harper government has unilaterally changed the Indian Act. It has unilaterally changed environmental legislation that weakens protection of fresh water and endangered fish species. It has made it easier for major developments to take place with less study of the environmental impact and no equal say for aboriginals. And in 2012, the very year Stephen Harper pledged to renew the search for justice for all native peoples, his “little minister” — as Chief Spence described John Duncan — announced sweeping cuts for core aboriginal organizations across Canada.
No one in Canada knows better than its aboriginals that a moment of truth has arrived for both them and the land. For good or ill, an explosion of development quivers over the West and the Arctic. Huge fortunes will be made by a few, great change will be ushered in, and the environment will be altered forever. Either the aboriginals make their stand now, or they will be eternally bypassed. As Grand Chief Stewart Phillip put it, “We’re the last line of defence between the country’s resources and a federal government that wants to open it up and devastate it.”
This is, indeed, a last stand. We used to believe that the land will endure. But, if Stephen Harper gets his way, the land will be despoiled for profits -- and those profits will not be shared with the people of the land. To do that, Harper must shift the focus. That is what he and his acolytes are now trying to do.