A gas bar at the centre of a contentious legal battle got the green light in court Thursday to reopen under the same management that was evicted in a showdown with a local First Nation chief a week ago.
A Court of Queen's Bench judge ordered Roseau River to leave a gas station the First Nation took over last week and allow management back in.
The Anishinabe First Nation evicted the investors who run the Red Sun Gas Bar and Smoke Shop on Highway 6 near the Perimeter, only to find themselves in court this week when the investors sought an injunction against the eviction and brought the matter to court.
The judge had barely made her ruling, when a lawyer for the First Nation immediately appealed it, asking the judge to stay her order.
Court of Queen's Bench Judge Sadie Bond decided not to stay her ruling and band leaders who led the eviction announced their intention to launch an appeal to overturn it. That paperwork is expected to be filed with the Court of Appeal within days.
Ultimately, fate of Red Sun, and the battle over who owns the millions of dollars in tobacco rebates and gas sales it brings in, remains up in the air.
In the meantime, David Doer, who sought the injunction with his partner Kathy Nelson, must wait until morning for the court paperwork from the ruling before they can move forward. He said he expected to make a public comment Friday.
Larry Penner, whose company Penner Oil supplies the gas and owns the pumps and tanks at the gas bar was absent from the proceedings, but his lawyer announced in court Thursday that his client intended to dig his tanks out of the ground and remove his pumps if the injunction wasn't granted.
Together Doer and Penner have sunk $3 million into building the business and their lawyers argued they've operated under a 20-year lease since they opened nearly seven years ago.
Roseau River Chief Ken Henry said the First Nation will honour the injunction.
"I'm obviously not above the law. They will be allowed back and hopefully we will get some co-operation," Henry said.
Henry and his council allege most revenue from the gas bar and smoke shop are accruing to Doer and to Kathy Nelson, the daughter of former chief Terry Nelson, now Southern grand chief. Henry said neither hold a proper lease on the land.The band says that revenue — millions of dollars in cigarette rebates and gas sales — properly belongs to Roseau River First Nation.
In her ruling, Judge Bond reviewed two days of complex arguments but framed her decision on the more narrow merits over whether the management of the gas bar operated under a lease agreement.
She found they did. "For a number of years, all the parties operated on the premise the lease is valid. In my view, we are dealing with a situation where the parties (the managers) will suffer a permanent loss... they will lose business if the (band eviction) is allowed to continue," the judge said.