Onion Lake Cree Nation releases financial statements after losing court battle

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. File / Global News

An Indigenous woman who won a court fight to see the Onion Lake Cree Nation‘s finances said the community’s leaders will have to start answering tough questions.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) partnered with Charmaine Stick to launch a court application to compel her leaders to publish basic financial documents as required by The First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

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

Stick argued she had a right to know the salaries of the chief and councillors and hold them accountable.

“I was so excited to read the financial statements, but then I’d get so mad I’d have to take a break and cool off,” Stick said in a statement.

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“Our chief gave himself a nice raise while lots of people on the reserve are struggling. Now that we have the numbers, our leaders are going to have to start answering tough questions.”

The documents, released April 25, show Chief Wallace Fox made $123,000 in 2015, and just over $150,000 in 2016. The average salary for a First Nations chief in Canada is just under $59,000.

Councillors earned between $82,300 and $97,600 in 2016.

The average yearly income on the Onion Lake Cree Nation is just over $17,500.

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

Todd MacKay, prairie director of the CTF, said First Nations people have the right to know what their leaders are doing with their money.

“Charmaine’s gone to band meetings, she’s gone on a hunger strike, she’s gone to court, and we’re so proud that she’s now gotten these documents to show her neighbours so they can hold their leaders accountable,” MacKay stated.

Onion Lake Cree Nation leaders released the financial statements after Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision ordering them to publish the documents.

In a statement, Onion Lake said it will continue to challenge the constitutionally of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

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The federal government has not enforced the act since 2015.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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