A resident of Onion Lake Cree Nation and the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF) are heralding a victory after a decision from a Saskatoon court Friday.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice B.A. Barrington-Foote is ordering the First Nation to begin reporting their basic financial information in accordance with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA).
“Surprise, surprise. If you’re spending the community’s money, you’ve got to tell them what you’re doing with that money,” said CTF Prairie Director Todd MacKay, who was on-hand for the decision.
The ruling gives Onion Lake 30 days to begin complying with the federal act, which includes disclosing tribal council and chief expenditures and salaries.
The First Nation had refused to do so when the legislation was passed in 2013 by the Conservative Party government under Stephen Harper. The Liberal government stopped enforcing the act after they were elected in 2015.
“For years I’ve been demanding answers from our leaders and they’ve told me I’d never get anywhere,” resident Charmaine Stick, who brought forward the court challenge, said in a statement.
“But today’s court ruling proves that all of us have the right to hold our chief and council accountable.”
Onion Lake is also involved in a federal court battle to determine whether the FNFTA is constitutional, and argued Justice Barrington-Foote should stay any decision until the federal court battle was resolved.
But the judge wrote in his decision that lawyers had not brought up constitutional questions in their arguments, separating the two cases completely.
It’s unclear whether the First Nation will appeal the ruling.