Briarpatch Magazine seeks legal action against village mayor

Briarpatch Magazine seeks legal action against Pinehouse mayor. Sean Lerat-Stetner/Global News

REGINA – In April 2013, Briarpatch Magazine, an independent Regina-based publication, was working on a possible conflict of interest story for their November issue, concerning a controversial $200 million agreement between the northern Saskatchewan village of Pinehouse, Kineepik Metis Local #9 and two uranium companies, Cameco and Areva.

Briarpatch requested financial statements and correspondence from the uranium companies to a village subsidiary, called Pinehouse Business North, but the mayor of Pinehouse, Sask. refused to hand over the public documents even after being told to do so by the province’s privacy commissioner.

“These uranium contracts have created great discord in the community and people are wanting answers from their leadership,” said Valerie Zink, who was editor of Briarpatch  at the time the magazine made the requests for information.

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“In a case where we find a public body is just largely ignoring the law and even after we tell them what’s required they ignore that advice we think that’s a pretty serious matter,” said privacy commissioner Gary Dickson.

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Dickson made a rare recommendation that the ministry of justice prosecute the mayor.

“We’ve closed well over 1,300 case files since I’ve been here and I think we’ve made the recommendation two, three times.”

In a statement provided by the ministry, senior communications consultant, Noel Busse said, “Prosecution is being considered, but a decision won’t be reached until Crown Prosecutors have completed a thorough review of the information and materials related to this matter.”

Sick of waiting, Zink and current editor Andrew Loewen have decided to pursue a court order.

“Ideally, we’d be seeing action from the province. It shouldn’t be the role of private citizens to enforce provincial legislation,” said Zink.

But they’re anxious to get their hands on the documents to complete their investigation.

“Uranium development is a historical and ongoing concern and people are very interested in us continuing to pursue that story,” said Loewen.

Global News reached out to Pinehouse mayor Mike Natomagan, but no one in his office returned our phone calls.

Briarpatch has employed Kowalchuk Law Office and are requesting compensation for their legal fees as part of their legal action.

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