The Lil'wat Nation has received Financial Management Systems (FMS) certification from the First Nations Financial Management Board (FNFMB), becoming the first Western Canadian First Nation to do so.
Having the FMS certification will offer greater stability to the Lil'wat Nation, said CAO Ernest Armann.
"I think it just gives us greater comfort in moving forward and ensuring that our financial administration affairs are in order," Armann said.
"It actually clearly lays out roles and responsibilities, it sets a very good standard on policy and how financial decisions are actually developed and implemented."
Armann joined the Lil'wat Nation in February, but the work being done towards FMS certification was one of the deciding factors for him in taking the job, he said.
"Simply because it demonstrates there's been a lot of thought put into how the community is going to move forward," he said. "For me it's about confidence... it creates stability."
The process took about four years in total. The Lil'wat becomes just the second First Nation in Canada to achieve the FMS certification, following Nova Scotia's Membertou First Nation, which achieved the honour in 2015.
"Receiving this certification translates to opportunities where very little or none existed previously," Chief Dean Nelson said in an email to Pique.
"Having an effective financial administration system is fundamental to ensuring good governance and protection of the economic and financial health of a First Nation by connecting the decision-making to the acceptable level of risk.
"This certification also solidifies a transparent working relationship between leadership and administration."
The certification is quite an achievement, and supports the Lil'wat goal of self-governance by allowing the nation to allocate and direct funds to projects in the community, but it remains to be seen what positive changes will result under the current system, Nelson said.
"The new reality is that First Nation leadership faces increased scrutiny from membership and other stakeholders on accountability and transparency, but at the same time must make critical decisions which may involve taking some risk," Nelson said.
"The big challenge is how to effectively oversee the First Nation's governance and decision-making in a way that balances managing these risks while adding value, accountability and transparency to the decision-making process."
The FNFMB worked closely with Lil'wat chief and council in developing a financial administration law, said Harold Calla, executive chair of the FNFMB, in a release.
"The commitment made by the Lil'wat Nation demonstrates their understanding of the wisdom of investing in themselves," Calla said.
"This FMS certification will support their participation in the mainstream economy. It will also build stakeholders' confidence in their operations and allow their access to the pooled borrowing opportunity now available to First Nations through the First Nations Finance Authority."
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