First Nation activist secures groundbreaking contempt-of-court order to enforce financial transparency
Aug. 6, 2019
REGINA, SK: After multiple wins in court, Maskowikamik Charmaine Stick, an activist from Onion Lake Cree Nation, and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, have successfully secured a contempt-of-court order due to the band’s illegal refusal to provide financial transparency.
“Transparency and accountability are fundamental to the rule of law in all governance structures,” said Stick. “Without transparency and accountability, there is no structure in law and to deny that or do otherwise brings harm to all affected by the rule of law and the Creator’s law.”
The Onion Lake Cree Nation has 30 days to publish its 2017 and 2018 audited financial statements and the salaries and expenses paid to chief and council or face a fine of $10,000, according to the decision rendered by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice J. McCreary on July 24, 2019.
“Charmaine has the right to know what her leaders are doing with the community’s money,” said Todd MacKay, the CTF’s Prairie Director. “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is failing grassroots people in First Nations communities by failing to enforce The First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
“By holding the Onion Lake Cree Nation’s leaders in contempt of court and imposing a $10,000 fine, the courts are sending a clear message that people in First Nations communities have a right to see the bands books and hold their leaders accountable,” continued MacKay.
The Onion Lake Cree Nation has consistently refused provide financial transparency. Band leaders went to court to block enforcement of The First Nations Financial Transparency Act which requires bands to publish consolidated financial statements as well as the salaries and expenses paid to chief and council, even though the vast majority of bands follow the law. The federal government stopped enforcing the act in 2015.
The CTF partnered with Stick to launch a court application to get her leaders to publish basic financial documents as required by The First Nations Financial Transparency Act.
The Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan ruling issued on June 15, 2017, ordered the Onion Lake Cree Nation to publish basic financial documents, but band leaders appealed. On Mar. 26, 2018, the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the decision requiring transparency after which the band published the required documents for 2015 and 2016.
The documents showed the band invested $1 million in a technology partnership and another $404,795 in a technology corporation. The investments were written down to a value of $1 each.
“We all talk about reconciliation so let’s work together to make reconciliation a reality, not only for ourselves, but for all future generations yet to be born – let’s do it for peace,” said Stick. “Transparency allows us to walk together in equality.”