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Onion Lake band member seeking release of financial information

A resident of Onion Lake Cree Nation has launched a court application in search of information on how her band government is spending money.

Charmaine Stick, who previously held a hunger strike seeking financial transparency from the band in 2014, made the application in Regina on Thursday. The application asks Onion Lake to disclose the salaries, expenses, and financial statements of the band from 2014 and 2015.

Onion Lake was a leader in fighting the First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA). The band successfully challenged the federal legislation in court, arguing that audited financial statements were available to band membership, and that the posting of financial information online would hurt Onion Lake, due to information related to business deals being posted.

In response to their non-compliance, funding for non-essential services was withheld in 2015.

However, this practice was ended after the Liberal government came to power. In December of 2015, Indigenous Affairs Minister unfroze the funding, and brought a halt to the compliance measures of the act.

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In an affidavit attached to her court application, Stick indicates that she had made multiple attempts to receive copies of the audited financial statements of the band, after it was announced by band administration that the documents were available for view at the band office.

The affidavit also says that Stick was told by band administration that members had a right to copies of those statements, as well as being told the same by members of the band council. However, the affidavit says she was ultimately denied copies of that information.

In making her court application, Stick also has the backing of the Canadian Taxpayers Association, which is seeking to have Onion Lake post its financial information as required under the FNFTA.

“All Canadians have the right to know what their leaders are doing with their money and that includes Charmaine Stick,” said Todd MacKay, Prairie Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in a press release sent out from the CTF.

“Charmaine is taking a truly courageous stand and we’re humbled to have the chance to help her.”

A member of the band council, Dolores Pahtayken, said that Stick had every right to question and demand answers. She also indicated that she had questions of her own.

“All the respect to her,” said Pahtayken.

“I believe the people want accountability for a lot of expenses paid, for projects started and not completed; they want answers for many questions. I have many questions myself that I will find answers to, it’s a matter of time. We are four months into a new term. Many are getting acquainted or reacquainted with this level of engagement. At this point we are doing our best to answer to our membership and will continue to improve communication with the people.”

Links to the court application and the affidavits from both Mackay and Stick can be found below.

Stick’s affidavit: https://www.dropbox.com/s/el0qtso9u1c5n3m/161103.Affidavit.Charmaine.pdf?dl=0

Mackay’s affidavit: https://www.dropbox.com/s/p1zz31n2ta4z527/161103.Affidavit.Todd.pdf?dl=0

The court application: https://www.dropbox.com/s/f3nfxomd0g59qrp/161103.OnionLakeApplication.pdf?dl=0

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