Over the last several decades, indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians have become increasingly interested in issues relating to financial transparency and accountability on Canadian reserves. Indigenous and non-indigenous governments have responded with various initiatives such as the Assembly of First Nations and the government of Canada’s Accountability for Results, 1 which was a strategy for increasing and improving financial transparency and accountability in these communities. The most recent initiative was in 2013 when the federal government passed the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. This legislation required communities that were under the jurisdiction of the Indian Act to provide comprehensive financial data to the federal government for public release and consumption. Although the current federal government has promised not to enforce this legislation, most First Nations communities have abided by its requirements and may continue to do so. The primary interest of this paper is to assess what effect increased financial transparency has had on Canadian public opinion toward indigenous peoples.
To do so, we conducted an online survey experiment to measure the impact of different levels of financial disclosure on Canadian public opinion regarding First Nations’ communities. As a point of comparison, we also looked at the effect of financial disclosure on public opinion about municipal governments. Our findings suggest that confidence in First Nations and municipal actors is generally unaffected by different levels of financial disclosure. We do, however, find increased (albeit weak) public support for self-determination when indigenous governments provide full financial disclosure.