Piikani Nation chief and council said last week they have been wrongfully named as part of a $40-million class action suit.
Chief and council also said provisions in the Indian Act make the class action suit filed by Brian Jackson illegal.
“We’re looking at hopefully getting this law suit quashed,” Piikani Nation Coun. Adam North Peigan said.
A statement of claim action was filed to recover the money paid out from the trust fund established in 2002 from the $64.3-million paid by the Canadian and Alberta governments as compensation for construction of the Oldman Dam.
The claim alleges CIBC Trust Corporation wrongfully paid out $19-million from the trust, managed the trust in such a negligent fashion that it resulted in a further $13-million loss, and made payments to chief and council that it should not have made.
The claim also alleges chief and council used $8-million in annual income earned by the trust inappropriately, and that fiduciary obligations were breached resulting in losses to the trust.
“You can’t file a suit on behalf of Piikani Nation members,” North Peigan said Thursday during an interview. “The only ones who can do that are chief and council.”
North Peigan admitted council took three loans from the trust fund, but all were legal under the provisions of the trust.
Council borrowed $7.8-million to invest in the ATCO hydro project. The Piikani Nation owns a 25 per cent share of that project.
Council borrowed another $275,000 for research, soil samples and an environmental assessment related to a $10-million irrigation project on reserve lands.
Council also borrowed $1.4-million from the trust to invest in the Weather Dancer wind turbine project.
“That is all part of the trust agreement,” North Peigan said.
Chief and council maintain Jackson, a former Piikani Nation councillor, should have named himself in the claim.
“Some of the loans he refers to in his litigation were during his time,” North Peigan said.
North Peigan said chief and council believe the claim was filed now to discredit them prior to the Piikani Nation general election on Jan. 5. Nomination day is Wednesday, Dec. 15.
“This whole litigation is driven by a political agenda,” North Peigan said.
The chief and council are prepared to stand on their record in the election.
“We have been the most proactive council who have moved the nation forward,” North Peigan said.
North Peigan pointed out the Piikani Nation is in the final phase of a plan to move the nation out of third party management, a situation the council inherited when it was elected in 2007.
North Peigan also pointed to housing and education initiatives council has undertaken and supported.
“We’ve done a lot of things,” North Peigan said. “I’m very proud of this council.”
Chief and council have 20 days to file a response to the claim.
“It’s in the hands of our legal counsel now,” North Peigan said.
North Piegan would not comment on the claim against the CIBC Trust Corporation.