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Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities, Justice John H. Gomery

Volume 1 & 2, 2005 & 2006

The Gomery report is important to be familiar with when dealing with federal, provincial and territorial Canadian governments on First Nation, Inuit and Métis issues. All too often these governments have non-elected, bureaucratic public servants form and enforce policies that profoundly affect Aboriginal rights. The bottom line is that public servants such as Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers, heads of agencies, and other senior officials have no authority to make decisions on policy or any other approach government should take with its management of the public sector. When senior public officials overstep their authority in Canada the status quo of forced assimilation and cultural genocide is reinforced.

Interesting, is that the very rhetoric that has been heard repeatedly from Canadian governments against Aboriginal governance regarding a lack of accountability and transparency, is exactly what is wrong with non-Aboriginal governments in Canada. Below are a few excerpts from Volume 2 of the Gomery Report.

  • “These two factors, a general lack of transparency about government spending, and a reluctance by the public service to call attention to irregularities because of the increased concentration of political power in the PMO, are weaknesses in the present-day system of Canadian government. They have tended to appreciate in recent decades, leading to a reduction and a distortion of ministerial responsibility and accountability, compared with the way those concepts were defined historically. The deterioration of ministerial responsibility is directly related to a corresponding diminution of the role of Parliament as a counter-balance to the power of the executive in Canadian government.” (Volume 2, page 8)...
  • “The Fact Finding Report describes in detail an administrative and political culture surrounding the Sponsorship initiatives which tolerated and even encouraged the contracting practices that led to abuse. That culture will have to change, but the transformation will not occur simply by hoping for it. A political or administrative culture is the product of the standards, values and perceptions of the participants, along with the forces and pressures on them from their working environment. The culture will not change until the attitudes of the participants change, and that will require a change in the environment.” (Volume 2, page 11)...
  • “The administrative culture that permitted the Sponsorship abuses will be improved only if there are strong motivations for Deputy Ministers, senior officials, and heads of agencies and Crown Corporations to put more emphasis on efficiency and probity in financial administration and on the willingness to accept responsibility. To make that happen, an environment must be created in which heads of the Government’s administrative apparatus take seriously the responsibility they hold for management. They must know that they will be held accountable for any deficiency in their stewardship of the public purse. An enhanced role for Parliament and parliamentary committees in supervising and enforcing accountability for financial administration,  including the accountability of senior bureaucrats, must be affirmed if this environment is to become a reality.” (Volume 2, page 11)...
  • “The assignment of the powers of administration to Deputy Ministers is an appropriate allocation of responsibilities. The responsibilities and duties of the public service do not lie in making policy decisions, nor in formulating decisions on the broad approach of government to its management of the public sector. Both of these areas are, and should be, the responsibility of elected Ministers. Public servants such as Deputy Ministers may offer advice to Ministers in these areas, but they do not make the decisions, nor do they bear the responsibility. Responsibility and power in these areas belong to Ministers, and their accountability for their use of their powers is political, on the floor of the House of Commons and, ultimately, to the people of Canada in general elections.” (Volume 2, page 115)…

Full Report:

Volume 1

Volume 2

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