Eight Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner Review Reports critical of Pinehouse Village administration’s lack of transparency; Situation spurs Pinehouse.info group to launch new website.
FOR RELEASE: June 19, 2016
Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner cites Village for non-compliance
Saskatoon, Sask.—On June 6 and 10, 2016, Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ronald J. Kruzeniski, Q.C., issued eight (8) separate review reports taking the Northern Village of Pinehouse to task for failing to comply with the provincial Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP). He has given the Village 30 days to take corrective action or the matter will be referred to the Ministry of Justice (see attached).
Beginning in November 2015, a series of Access to Information requests was submitted to the Northern Village of Pinehouse on a range of issues. Several of them relate to the Village-owned business development corporation, Pinehouse Business North (PBN):
- Two requests for information and supporting documentation about the salary and travel expenses of one Village councilor and two of its employees. (Partial documentation has been provided about the Village councilor.) Review Report 098-2016 and 106-2016.
- Request for PBN Development and PBN Limited Partnership audited financial statements for 2013 and 2014; and quarterly reports for 2015. Review Report 110-2016.
- Request for documentation approving PBN’s not creating audited financial statements for three successive fiscal years, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Review Report 039-2016.
- Request for information about remuneration and travel expenses for the PBN board of directors, 2009-2014. Review Report 036-2016.
- Request for documents authorizing PBN to sponsor the Saskatchewan Party Youth convention in November 2014. Review Report 040-2016.
- Request for documentation to explain a discrepancy of over $3 million between the net income reported for PBN in PBN’s and the Village’s financial statements for 2012. Review Report 056-2016.
- Request for a copy of the Village’s Records Retention and Disposal Schedule and all approvals for destruction of documents according to that Schedule. Review Report 037-2016.
All but one of these requests was denied or ignored by the Pinehouse Village administration, despite the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner actively urging compliance.
Pinehouse.info website launched to share many previously inaccessible public documents
As a result of this stonewalling on the part of the Village administration, the individuals who submitted the series of Access to Information requests have decided to launch the Pinehouse.info website. That web site goes live today. Their intent is to share documents previously obtained from the Village, which are not generally accessible to the public. Many of these were obtained as a result of Briarpatch magazine filing a civil law suit against the Village in 2014.
“Problems with public accountability and transparency in the Village seem to have begun when the Village leadership started formal negotiations with the uranium and nuclear industry in 2010,” says D’Arcy Hande, spokesperson for the Pinehouse.info group.
Documents posted on the website show various facets of the secret dealings with the Nuclear Waste Management Corporation to locate a nuclear waste depository in the community, and with the Cameco and Areva uranium mining companies to enter into a Collaboration Agreement with the Village and Kineepik Metis Local Inc. Millions of dollars have subsequently come in to the community, but many residents question just how that money has been allocated and who really is getting the benefit.
The Pinehouse.info group plans to share what documents it has already obtained in an attempt to expose administrative irregularities and to explain the difficulties getting access to the public documents that would make municipal administration in Pinehouse more transparent and accountable.
“With millions of dollars at stake, and the Village administration denying or refusing access to public documents, it makes us wonder if records have been mishandled or possibly even destroyed without proper authorization and accountability,” Hande said. “People witnessed Village records being destroyed in burning barrels outside the Village office last summer. Was that done according to proper procedures? We just don’t know.”