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Onion Lake member Charmaine Stick and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) first brought the First Nation to court in 2016, alleging it didn’t comply with the 2013 First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The act requires First Nations to release their financial statements online and to band members upon request.
Todd MacKay, prairie director for the CTF, said further legal options would be on the table after what he called a “narrow reading” in last month’s decision.
“The law’s still the law,” he said. “Everybody deserves the right to know what their leaders are doing with their community’s money.”
The First Nation has a contentious history with the 2013 policy.
When the law passed, Leurer noted Onion Lake Cree Nation refused to comply with it. In 2014, the First Nation began an ongoing legal action in federal court that challenged the law as unconstitutional. That action is separate from the case with Stick and the CTF.
After the Liberal Party formed government in 2015, it announced there would be no penalties for First Nations that failed to comply with the act.
The future of the legislation was unclear when a Saskatoon Queen’s Bench judge ruled that Onion Lake Cree Nation had to follow it. Onion Lake’s subsequent appeal was dismissed and the First Nation published its 2015 and 2016 audited financial statements on the Government of Canada website, but it hasn’t done so since.
Stick and the CTF returned to court so that further statements would be released. Mackay wasn’t able to say what legal steps may follow last month’s decision.
Onion Lake is located roughly 330 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. The band’s total financial assets were $87 million in 2016, according to its 2015-16 audited financial statement. Salaries for its chief and eight councillors added up to $862,000 that year.