The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) has lost a legal bid to restore a cancelled $67.5-million Manitoba Hydro payment.
A written decision from Manitoba’s Chief Justice Glenn Joyal Tuesday morning came down clearly on the side of Manitoba’s Pallister government.
Pallister rescinded the deal in March 2018 approved by the previous NDP government, which would compensate Métis for harvesting, fishing and hunting rights displaced by Hydro projects.
The judge agreed the government had the right to scuttle the agreement.
“The directive is a lawful and reasonable exercise of Cabinet’s statutory power to enforce its stewardship role over Hydro,” Joyal concluded in his 55-page written decision.
Losing the deal had angered MMF leader David Chartrand, who sued the province. But Chartrand, who is in medical self-isolation as a preventative measure against the novel coronavirus, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
His office didn’t make a response available.
Chartrand previously suggested the premier’s decision was racist and argued Pallister didn’t have the legal authority to scuttle the reconciliation-type payment.
But Joyal, of Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench, disagreed.
“Cabinet’s authorization of the Directive and any consequent involvement in or effect on the MMF’s negotiations with Hydro, do not engage the honour of the Crown,” he wrote.
“Neither the honour of the Crown nor the common law entitled the MMF to any special procedural rights in relation to a Cabinet policy decision in the circumstances of this case.”
(David Chartrand (centre) challenged the Manitoba government’s decision to cancel a multi-million dollar agreement. APTN file)
Pallister was pleased with the result.
“We don’t engage in the purchase of the rights of Metis children yet unborn from Mr. Chartrand,” he told reporters Tuesday morning.
“We’re not using Manitoba Hydro as an ATM to buy friends and that’s a change from the previous government’s practices.”
The MMF has said it was a legally-binding agreement that compensated Métis people for lost land access due to Hydro projects, including the Bipole III transmission line, Keeyask generating station and Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line.
The money was going to be paid out over 50 years.
But Pallister described it as “persuasion money” and an attempt to silence opposition against present and future Hydro projects.
“This is a good decision,” the premier said, “because it verifies our approach, which is to respect Indigenous people and all Manitobans who want to come forward with input on important projects that effect them.
“So, I would argue that this is in the best interests of all Manitobans – decisions like this – and I would encourage Mr. Chartrand and anyone else who has concerns about any future projects to participate fully in the process of engagement and not expect to be paid to get out of the way.”
The MMF did not say Tuesday whether it would appeal the decision.