Sagkeeng First Nation is seeking to halt construction of a power transmission line to the United States because it says it was not properly consulted beforehand.
Lawyers for the First Nation will be in Court of Queen's Bench Wednesday morning, trying to put the brakes on the $453 million Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project (MMTP), which is already under construction.
The transmission line is being built to boost Manitoba's capacity to export electricity to the U.S.
Sagkeeng says the province should not have issued a licence to Manitoba Hydro to build the line until First Nations people were consulted and accommodated.
"Manitoba Hydro is already building its transmission line right through our traditional territory. Sagkeeng is the first to be in court challenging this abuse of our land and our rights because we will not stand for Manitoba's continued disrespect," Chief Derrick Henderson said in a statement.
Sagkeeng's lawyer, Corey Shefman, said the provincial government is failing to fulfill its constitutional obligations to Indigenous peoples.
"Manitoba's consultation process is a sham, intended only to check off the boxes on their checklist and let the First Nation 'blow off steam,'" he said.
"Manitoba Hydro is already building its transmission line right through our traditional territory. Sagkeeng is the first to be in court challenging this abuse of our land and our rights because we will not stand for Manitoba's continued disrespect." - Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Derrick Henderson
"The Supreme Court has told governments over and over again that for consultation to be meaningful, it has to be with the intention of 'substantially addressing the concerns of the aboriginal peoples,' whose rights are at issue," Shefman said. "Manitoba's consultation barely pays lip service to that requirement."
Manitoba Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen said the corporation had no comment on the First Nation's legal action.
Sagkeeng is not the only Indigenous group to object to the line's construction.
A federal regulator recently appointed a panel to review whether Manitoba Hydro had met all conditions of its licence for construction of the MMTP.
The Canada Energy Regulator (formerly National Energy Board) appointed the panel in response to concerns raised by the Manitoba Métis Federation. The federation said Manitoba Hydro is not meeting all licensing conditions because of the Pallister government's decision to end compensation agreements with the MMF.
In 2018, the provincial government quashed a $67-million long-term compensation agreement between Hydro and the MMF that would have prevented legal challenges by the Métis over the MMTP and other projects.
Meanwhile, Shefman said not only is Sagkeeng trying to have the existing law, as described by the Supreme Court, upheld in Manitoba, it is also seeking "to push that law forward by ensuring that accommodation measures including compensation are required as a matter of course."
He said that issue may wind up in the country's highest court.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.