Pinehouse.info was created in an attempt to expose the extreme difficulties experienced in recent years by the citizens of the Northern Village of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan, in gaining access to the most basic public information about the administration of their municipality. At a time when there was a huge influx of corporate dollars into the Village coffers from the uranium and nuclear industries, local leaders repeatedly failed to account fully for the finances of the Village and the Village’s business development corporation, Pinehouse Business North.
Who are we?
Several people in Pinehouse are working with allies across Canada who are interested in the impact of the nuclear and uranium mining industry on small, northern communities. We believe that it is in the public interest to investigate and disclose these issues to the fullest possible extent. We believe that related documents, and the few others that have been recovered through Freedom of Information requests, should be made available for public scrutiny. This website is our collective, joint endeavour towards sharing documents crucial to understanding what is going on behind the scenes in Village governance.
Where is Pinehouse?
Incorporated in 1979 under the Saskatchewan Northern Municipalities Act, the Northern Village of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan, is an Indigenous (Métis and First Nations) community of approximately 1400 residents located about 5 hours northwest of Saskatoon. It is not on reserve land.
How does Pinehouse fit into the “big picture”?
The influx of millions of dollars over several years into the Village coffers is a result of it having signed on to the nuclear development agenda that gained much public attention in 2008-2010 as part of the of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) proposal promoted by Brad Wall and his Saskatchewan Party government. Through the 2009 province-wide public consultations, the UDP’s nuclear development recommendations were overwhelmingly rejected but its agenda is still being pursued by government, industry and the University of Saskatchewan.
In northern Saskatchewan, this emphasis on uranium development has led to collaboration agreements between village councils and First Nations band councils, basically making those administrations the puppets of Cameco and Areva (uranium mining corporations).
At the same time, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), established by nuclear-dependent utility companies to handle disposal of their high level nuclear waste, was putting pressure on several northern communities to host disposal sites for depleted uranium from nuclear reactors in eastern Canada.
While the collaboration agreement for Pinehouse was signed in December 2012, community resistance finally forced the withdrawal of NWMO from Pinehouse late in 2014.
The exposé begins
Beginning in 2013, BRIARPATCH magazine published a series of articles on the Pinehouse leadership’s dealings with the uranium and nuclear industry, negotiating for millions of dollars of corporate support under the guise of benefiting the entire community. Secret negotiations on the part of the Village of Pinehouse, their business development corporation Pinehouse Business North, and Kineepik Metis Local Inc. (a non-profit corporation claiming to represent the Metis population at Pinehouse) have brought huge amounts of money into the community, it is true, but that infusion is not reflected proportionately in improved infrastructure in the Village. And it is almost impossible for citizens to hold its community leadership accountable for where the largesse has gone.
- Just how much money in total has actually been received?
- Where exactly have the dollars gone?
- How have they been allocated?
Whenever members of the public requested detailed answers to these and other pertinent questions, they are usually ignored or outright refused.
Through the Saskatchewan Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, BRIARPATCH was able to get disclosure of several documents. In early 2014, when the Village refused access to a number of other key documents, BRIARPATCH filed a lawsuit. This led to judicial mediation between the magazine and the Village, forcing disclosure of several other documents. As further questions were raised, and more Freedom of Information requests were made, the Village shared a few more documents, but has steadfastly refused to disclose others despite the urging of Saskatchewan’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.
In June 2016, the Northern Village of Pinehouse was cited by the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner in eight separate Review Reports, all of them indicating severe deficiencies in the Village’s responses to FOI requests in the previous six months. Perhaps the most disturbing report relates to the inability (or perhaps the unwillingness) of the Village administration to provide a copy of its Records Retention and Disposal Schedule, a basic working manual required by the Northern Municipalities Act, Section 132(1). It would appear that the Village has destroyed official records without following proper procedure – simultaneously as Freedom of Information requests were being denied.