Łutsël K'é Dene First Nation's Denesoline Corporation is going to court in an effort to force its partner in a bankrupt business venture to hand over reports on the business' operations.
Alberta-based transport company Ventures West got creditor protection in November 2019 after years of losing money, despite efforts by Denesoline to stop the company from selling its assets, among other things. Ventures West was co-owned by the Denesoline Corp. and the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation (TIC).
The company is at the heart of a civil lawsuit Denesoline filed against the TIC in 2017, accusing the company of financial mismanagement and appointing friends and family of Tłı̨chǫ chiefs to positions of authority. Denesoline alleges this mismanagement led to the failure of Ventures West.
Now, Denesoline is asking for a judge to force the TIC to hand over a strategic review of Ventures West's operations, as well as a report on the TIC's operations — documents they believe could help prove their claims.
"It's important that we receive those reports to see whether any of these events that are related to Ventures West's financial decline are in any way attributable to the allegations at the heart of this claim, which is nepotism and mismanagement," said Tess Layton, a lawyer for the Denesoline Corporation.
The exact content of the reports isn't known. However, when lawyers for Denesoline questioned TIC CEO Mark Brajer in October 2020, Brajer said TIC commissioned a report sometime in 2019 to look at the operations of the corporation's transport companies, one of which was Ventures West.
He said the report focused on maintenance costs and how the corporation was handling the seasonal nature of the companies' work.
"Certainly there had been several years of ongoing losses," he said at the time, adding his goal when he came on as CEO was to turn things around.
The details of the other report into TIC's own operations were not disclosed, as Brajer's counsel objected to questions about it. That report, which was commissioned by the chief's executive council of the Tłı̨chǫ Government, looked at how the TIC was doing financially and how it was being managed but excluded the transport companies from review.
Layton told CBC Denesoline asked TIC for the reports, but TIC refused.
She said Denesoline's position is that the interview transcripts that accompany the court application for the reports — which include Brajer's questioning as well as a 2018 interview with former TIC CEO Jasper Lamouelle — "are some evidence that what we have alleged in the statement of claim back in 2017 is in fact occurring at TIC."
CBC could not reach Brajer for comment.
Denesoline's court application will be heard Sept. 24 at the Edmonton Law Courts in Alberta.