Onion Lake resident calls for release of band's financial documents

Charmaine Stick, an Onion Lake Cree Nation band member, launched a court application in Regina today, asking the court to force her band to disclose its salaries, expenses and financial statements.

Resident Charmaine Stick launches court application to force band to disclose salaries, expenses

Charmaine Stick was at the courthouse in Regina to launch an application to force her band to release its financial documents on Nov. 10, 2016. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

A resident of the Onion Lake Cree Nation is launching a court application to try to get answers about how her band is spending its money.

Charmaine Stick, an Onion Lake band member, launched an application in Regina today, asking the court to force her band to disclose its salaries, expenses and financial statements. 

Stick said she's been fighting for years for greater transparency from her council. 

"Our band membership had been asking questions in regards to transparency and accountability within our leadership for the past two to four years," Stick said.

CBC News reached out to the band leadership but hasn't yet received a response. 

Stick said there's greater concern now because the band has put a halt to the development of dozens of new housing units in the community.

"That's on hold because we're being told there is no money for the rest of that, when this past march we were told that there was money to finish those 60 units that were coming up,"  she said. 

Disclosure of funds  

Most First Nations already disclose their financial information online in accordance with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

However, Onion Lake was one of several First Nations from across the country that had its funding for non-essential services withheld in 2015 for failing to comply with the act. 

Onion Lake took Ottawa to court over the act, arguing that the band already does annual audited statements that are available to band members and that it follows federal protocols.

We haven't really been getting any answers.- Charmaine Stick, Onion Lake Cree Nation resident

The band's lawyer said in court that making this information public online would hurt the band because it has information related to confidential business dealings.

After the Liberal government came to power last year, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett reinstated the frozen funds and halted the act's compliance measures. 

But Stick said the documents aren't available for all band members. She said she's asked for documents in the past that haven't been provided. 

"We haven't really been getting any answers," she said. "The fact that there is no accountability or transparency within our communities is a form of oppression for our people."

Support from taxpayers federation

Todd MacKay with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Onion Lake resident Charmaine Stick should be able to access her band's financial statements online. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Stick has the support of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which said not posting the documents is "completely unacceptable."

"Charmaine deserves to know what's going on with her community's money. That's a simple fact. Every Canadian has a right to know what their leaders are doing with their money," said Todd MacKay, prairie director for the Taxpayers Federation. 

MacKay said he's hopeful that the leadership at Onion Lake will post its financial documents online in response to the court application.  

"If they don't, we'll continue to fight this through the courts," MacKay said.