Mon, 11/24/2014 - 08:39

Posted by Belinda Alzner on January 09, 2013
The movement that has criticized changes to legislation the federal government has proposed in Bill C-45, better-known as the Idle No More movement, took a while before it became the topic of mainstream political panels and front-page stories. But over the course of the movement and with her well-publicized hunger strike, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence became a “one of the most public and controversial faces” of the protest. On Monday, a third-party audit of Attawapiskat finances was leaked, revealing shoddy bookkeeping. The movement called it a “move to discredit” Spence as news stories questioned where millions of dollars were spent. Relations between the media and Spence took a turn. Journalists were turned away from the site where Spence had been staying on Victoria Island in Ottawa on Monday and Tuesday after the release of the audit and Attawapiskat police threatened to charge Global National correspondent Jennifer Tryon and photojournalist Trevor Owens with trespassing and breaching the peace if they did not leave the reserve on Tuesday. The direction to refuse media access to the reserve reportedly came from Spence herself. On Wednesday, an Attawapiskat spokesperson told Global News he wasn’t sure why the reporters were kicked out and asked them to “patiently wait to get direction from Chief Spence” as to when they could return. 

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Comments

Why am I not surprised?  the entire history of Native/White relations is a trail of broken promises, misunderstanding, sleight-of-hand, recriminations, apologies followed by more of the same, and if I were a Native from Attawapiskat I wouldn't be happy with the way the leaked media report was handled. 

How is the auditor's comment about lack of supporting documents any different from comments on audited bookkeeping in the federal bureaucracy?  Having been there I could tell you a few stories that are at least as bad as what appears to be problematic here.  And I have no doubt that bookkeeping at media headquarters has a few weak areas of its own. 

What people ought to be angry about is that the federal government hands an amount of money to the Native community and essentially says "take it, use it" etc but never teaches any one of them how and what to use as supporting documents, how to enter expenditures against the appropriate line items, and all the other fun basics of bookkeeping that everyone loves.  Is it just me or is there a distinct odour of "give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themselves"???

The auditors also slammed the federal government and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, tho that was lost in most of the electronic reports (those pesky ten-second clips! and those angst-riddled reports of journalists savaged by Attawapiskat's policeman!  having to leave without a story!)

Here's what ought not to be overlooked:  there are traditional ways of doing business, no matter which side of the equation you are looking at.  But there has been a sea change in attitude by Society as a whole, necessitating more rigorous record keeping for almost everything. 

Then how can Natives - whom the Government always leaves alone at such times - keep better records when they have neither been informed of, nor taught, the stricter requirements?

 

J-Source and ProjetJ are publications of the Canadian Journalism Project, a venture among post-secondary journalism schools and programs across Canada, led by Ryerson University, Université Laval and Carleton University and supported by a group of donors.