First Nation takes federal government to court over transparency law

(WATCH: Dozens of First Nations across the country are in danger of losing federal funding. They’re holding out against a new law that requires every band in Canada to publicly disclose financial information. Jacques Bourbeau reports.)

OTTAWA – The federal government posted a list of First Nations Thursday that have not provided their financial information by the Nov. 26 deadline.

The Conservative government’s First Nations Financial Transparency Act required First Nations to post audited financial statements and information about the salaries and expenses of chiefs and councillors on a public website by July 29. Aboriginal Affairs wrote to some First Nations recently to tell them they have until the end of the day Wednesday to publish their financial information online.

On Thursday, the government posted a list of First Nations that did not post their financial information online by the Nov. 26 deadline. The page was down for part of Thursday because of a technical error, the department said.

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A total of 52 First Nations did not comply, including 15 from Manitoba, 12 from B.C., 12 from Ontario, and nine from Saskatchewan.

(View the gallery below for a list by province.)

The government is being taken to court over this transparency law. The Onion Lake Cree Nation, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, filed a statement of claim today in the Edmonton offices of the Federal Court.

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(Read the full statement of claim below).

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Chief Wallace Fox says Onion Lake has the support of other First Nations.

The Aboriginal Affairs department says First Nations that fail to do so face consequences ranging from a public shaming to possible court action.

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It says, as of Wednesday afternoon, 529 First Nations have complied with the act. There are 582 bands covered by the new transparency law. On Thursday, a list of those who have not complied will be posted on the department’s website. It may take several days before the information is organized and published online.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is responding to the deadline with both praise and disappointment.

“We started calling for this disclosure law back in 2009 so we’re glad the vast majority of aboriginal reserves are abiding by the new law,” says CTF Prairie Director Colin Craig. “The disclosure of chief and council pay information and band financial statements will help band members hold their elected officials accountable and compare their community’s results with others.”

“It’s unfortunate that some chiefs and councillors are holding out and putting their desire to keep their pay details hidden ahead of the well-being of the people living in their communities,” Craig adds. “We would like the federal government to indicate which bands have refused to disclose their information versus bands that are disorganized. And we expect appropriate action to be taken.”

(Watch below: Onion Lake Cree Nation is taking the federal government to court over its financial transparency act. Shallima Maharaj reports.)

With files from The Canadian Press

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*NOTE: This article was originally published on Nov. 26. It was updated on Nov. 27 to include compliance numbers and CTF statement.

Onion Lake Cree Nation: Statement of Claim

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