The dictionary definition of transparency reads: The full, accurate, and timely disclosure of information.
Transparency is one of the most important words everywhere in the world, but it seems especially pertinent these days in Eeyou Istchee.
Cree territory has been hit with its share of questionable activity in the past; from money stolen at a bank in Waswanipi to missing monies from the housing fund in Waskaganish, just to name two examples. Such incidents and others will continue to rear their ugly heads as long as transparency is seen as a four-letter word.
Whether you are running a large company or have been elected to office as chief of your community, transparency has to be a central part of the way you govern or you will look dishonest, even if you have never committed any crime or wrongdoing.
True, there are legitimate reasons not to speak to the media. Police may not speak on cases involving an ongoing investigation, for example. It is then that information given out may hinder or damage the investigation, prosecution or defence.
In the bizarre case of Eastmain Chief Lloyd Mayappo and Deputy Chief John Brown, however, transparency seems to be an afterthought (see story page 5).
A meeting was called on January 23 to “Expose and explain to the members of the Cree Nation of Eastmain that the Council of the Cree Nation of Eastmain has become dysfunctional as a result of confrontations that keep arising between the Deputy-Chief and the Chief.”
Normally, a chief or any elected official should be chomping at the bit to tell his or her side of the story, why they called the meeting and what direction the leadership intends to go. Not only is this good politics, but it is a prime
responsibility of all elected officials. You are in the public eye and you are responsible to your electoral body, both on and off reserve, whether they attended the meeting or not. Not this time, apparently.
As has sometimes been the case in the past when the Nation has requested by-laws or other public documents from various organizations in Eeyou Istchee, certain officials and their staff are not as open or as forthcoming as democratic norms require. Chief Lloyd Mayappo, unfortunately, has joined this group on this issue.
According to Mayappo, someone at the meeting told him not to speak to the media. Thus, based on this flimsiest of excuses, Mayappo is refusing to inform the members of his community who were unable to attend the meeting what happened there.
It is surprising, to say the least, that a public meeting can in this fashion suddenly become less than public. Mayappo and his council control the community’s purse strings, and every single member of that community has the right to know if their community government is acting in a responsible fashion.
The precedent this decision sets is not good. The Nation prides itself on reporting the latest events – good or bad. That includes a public meeting that the people have a right to know about.
By refusing to talk about what happened in a public meeting is a betrayal of the public’s right to know – especially on matters as crucial as the community’s leadership. The foundation of democracy is transparency.
In order for politicians at every level of Cree politics to be respected and truly viewed as open, honest and working for the people, transparency must not only be the starting point but also the objective.