09/02/2015 16:07 EDT | Updated 09/02/2016 01:12 EDT

First Nation fighting federal financial transparency law seeks help from UN

ONION LAKE, Sask. — A First Nation challenging a federal law that requires Indian bands to make their finances public says it is seeking help from the United Nations.

The Onion Lake Cree Nation's case against the transparency legislation was heard in Saskatoon Federal Court last month, and a decision is pending.

The band contends the law violates treaty rights and that Ottawa has wrongfully cut non-essential funding to First Nations that have not complied.

Chief Okimaw Wallace Fox says he has written a letter to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva.

The chief is appealing to the committee to express concern about the legislation and what he calls the heavy-handed approach the government has taken against indigenous peoples.

UN officials were not immediately available for comment.

Last month, lawyers for the federal government were in court in Saskatoon to force five First Nations, including Onion Lake, to open their books to the public.

The other reserves in the case are the Sawridge and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations in Alberta and the Thunderchild and Ochapowace bands in Saskatchewan.

The federal government has said the legislation 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.''

Independent experts on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitor implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by governments.

The Onion Lake reserve straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary north of Lloydminister.


The Canadian Press