June 17, 2017 3:41 pm
Updated: June 18, 2017 5:34 pm

Court order gives Onion Lake Cree Nation 30 days to disclose basic financial records

Charmaine Stick (right), an Onion Lake Cree Nation member, sued the band for the right to know the salaries of the chief and council members, and to see basic financial statements.

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A recent court order gives the Onion Lake Cree Nation near the Alberta/Saskatchewan border 30 days to disclose its basic financial records.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation helped with a court application that was launched by band member Charmaine Stick in 2016.

READ MORE: Onion Lake Cree Nation member suing for right to know salaries, financial records

On Saturday, CTF Prairie Director Todd MacKay told the Alberta Morning News this was a huge decision.

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“Onion Lake Cree Nation is one band that has refused to provide that kind of transparency for years. The federal government is no longer enforcing the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, so that meant that band members like Charmaine Stick literally couldn’t find out what was going with their community’s money.”

Stick made headlines in 2014 by going on a 13-day hunger strike in a bid to try and push the band for better financial transparency.

MacKay believes this order sends a strong message.

“You don’t just have to worry about the federal government enforcing the law, you really have to be worried about grassroots band members because they can apply to the courts to compel their leaders to do what everybody should do when they’re spending public dollars and let folks know what’s going on. That’s why this is such an important decision.”

He said most first nations do post their finances, but there are still some that are refusing, and this is an extraordinary failure by the federal government.

“They’ve failed people like Charmaine Stick and many others across the country, now the courts are stepping in. This is going to put massive pressure on the federal government to do something. They can’t just sit there and ignore this issue. It’s absolutely irresponsible for them to be ignoring it as long as they have.”

READ MORE: Nearly 200 First Nations could lose funding for failing to report finances

The feds suspended a provision of the First Nations Transparency Act in late 2015 that gave Ottawa the power to withhold federal funds for any band that didn’t publish audited financial statements and how much its chief and band councillors were paid.​

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