Onion Lake Cree Nation is among five First Nations reserves the federal government has taken to court over transparency laws. The laws require all First Nations to post their salaries and audited financial statements online.
The government says the laws are aimed at making band leaders more accountable to their constituents, with Bernard Valcourt, Aboriginal Affairs Minister has saying it makes financial information more accessible to band members and leads to “more effective, transparent and accountable governance, as well as stronger, more self-sufficient and prosperous communities.”
Detractors argue that the law is aimed at controlling indigenous communities. Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says the communities don’t have an issue with disclosing band councilor salaries.
“It’s bad legislation,” Bellegarde said. “Transparency and accountability is a good thing, and we totally support that, but it’s our own-source revenues that’s the big issue … it’s pretty heavy-handed.”
The reserves the government is challenging alongside Onion Lake are the Sawridge and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations in Alberta and the Thunderchild and Ochapowace bands in Saskatchewan. Alberta’s Cold Lake First Nation was originally on the list, but was dropped when the band complied with the legislation.
Onion Lake is also challenging the constitutionality of the law in a separate court case.