OTTAWA — The Conservative government is taking six First Nations to court to try to force them to comply with a new transparency law that requires band governments to post financial documents online.
“Effective immediately, we are taking court action as provided by the Act against band governments who have indicated their intention not to comply with the (First Nations Financial Transparency) Act,” Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said in a statement Monday.
The statement said Valcourt had directed the department to ask the Federal Court to order the six First Nations to comply with the controversial legislation. The First Nations are Thunderchild, Ochapowace and Onion Lake in Saskatchewan, as well as Sawridge, Athabasca Chipewyan and Cold Lake in Alberta.
The law requires First Nations to submit financial documents — including audited financial statements and the salaries and expenses of chiefs and band councillors — to be published on the Aboriginal Affairs website.
There are 41 other First Nations — out of 582 — that have not yet submitted their documents to be posted online and they are facing sanctions such as withholding funding for non-essential services.
The six First Nations are being targeted for court action because they have made it known they have no intention to comply.
The Onion Lake Cree Nation launched its own $50 million court action against the federal government last month, arguing the legislation would put them at a competitive disadvantage by forcing them to reveal private business information about their oil and gas revenues.
“It is not about chief and council salaries, we have disclosed that to our people,” Onion Lake Chief Wallace Fox said Nov. 26 at a news conference live-streamed online from Edmonton.