By Mervin Brass

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says whenever you have a bad law, you need to challenge it and it needs to be changed, like Bill C-27.

“It’s almost like you need to start to do a review of other pieces of legislation in Canada from Bill C-38 to Bill C-45 to Bill C-51,” says Bellegarde. “It’s almost like you need a whole federal law review to get laws changed to get them in line with Canada’s own constitution which recognizes existing Aboriginal treaty rights.”

Chiefs from Treaty 6 and Treaty 4 are challenging that law, and presented their application in Federal Court for a stay of proceedings against Bill C-27, the Financial Transparency Act last month in Saskatoon.

Onion Lake, Thunderchild and Ochapowace joined three other Alberta bands applying for the stay of proceedings until their legal challenge against the First Nations Financial Transparency Act has been ruled upon by court.

Outside of court at a news conference, Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Wallace Fox says in his opinion, Bill C-27 is race based.

Fox asked if the legislation is about transparency or is it about Chief and Council salaries.

“This legislation, no other race in Canada has to do this except Indian people,” says Fox. “The privacy legislation that each and everyone of you enjoy in Canada protects all of you except Indian people. This is what the legislation does, Bill C-27.”

“As a result of our international status as peoples and the rights we possess as indigenous peoples, combined with our sovereignty and international law concerning treaty,” says Ochapowace Chief Margaret Bear in her statement, “we have rejected Canadian legislation and policy in particular Bill C-27 and C-51.”

The Chiefs are accountable to their memberships first and foremost, adds Bellegarde, who joined Fox and Bear in the news conference.

Bellegarde says Bill C-27 becomes an issue when you start talking about a band’s own source revenue and consolidating audits.

Under the Financial Transparency Act a band would have to provide confidential information from their business holdings.

Fox says that would provide their competitors an advantage because they would know the abilities and capabilities of First Nation companies when it came time to bid on contracts.

Federal Government lawyers argued that the First Nations failed to prove disclosing their financial information would cause irreparable harm.

The government lawyers also told court the bands did not prove the finances are Indian monies.

A judge reserved his decision on the application by several First Nations for a stay of proceedings against Bill C-27. No date was provided when the judge’s ruling will be available to the public.

Depending on the judge’s decision, the bands may not have to post the financial information to the internet until their legal challenge against Bill C-27 is over.

The ruling could take years.

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