June 22, 2018

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Métis to ask Trudeau to help in fight against province

OTTAWA — The Manitoba Metis Federation will ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene in its feud with the Pallister government, over its March decision to shelve a deal signed by Manitoba Hydro, the Free Press has learned.

“Does (Ottawa) stand up and say, ‘Wait a second, we believe you’re infringing on constitutional rights here, and there’s a problem,’” federation president David Chartrand said Wednesday.

The federation is suing the Manitoba government over its demand Hydro kill a land-entitlement deal worth $67.5 million over 50 years. That agreement, which the government argues was a mere proposal, had the federation commit to not opposing a proposed $453-million hydro transmission line to Minnesota that would facilitate increased U.S. sales.

Chartrand said he’ll broach the topic Friday in Ottawa during the Métis National Council’s meeting with Trudeau, before passing him a letter asking for the prime minister’s help.

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OTTAWA — The Manitoba Metis Federation will ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to intervene in its feud with the Pallister government, over its March decision to shelve a deal signed by Manitoba Hydro, the Free Press has learned.

"Does (Ottawa) stand up and say, ‘Wait a second, we believe you’re infringing on constitutional rights here, and there’s a problem,’" federation president David Chartrand said Wednesday.

<p>Métis leader David Chartrand (right) wants Trudeau’s government to help settle the dispute.</p>

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Métis leader David Chartrand (right) wants Trudeau’s government to help settle the dispute.

The federation is suing the Manitoba government over its demand Hydro kill a land-entitlement deal worth $67.5 million over 50 years. That agreement, which the government argues was a mere proposal, had the federation commit to not opposing a proposed $453-million hydro transmission line to Minnesota that would facilitate increased U.S. sales.

Chartrand said he’ll broach the topic Friday in Ottawa during the Métis National Council’s meeting with Trudeau, before passing him a letter asking for the prime minister’s help.

The federation is seeking financial assistance, or representation from Justice Department lawyers, or even Ottawa applying for intervener status.

"There’s a federal question that has to be asked now: what happens to Indigenous Peoples when provinces try to misuse all their power, and authority as well, to try to shut down Indigenous rights?" Chartrand said before boarding a flight to Ottawa.

"Do they let Indigenous people fend for themselves, against a big province with an endless amount of resources they can turn to?"

'There's a federal question that has to be asked now: what happens to Indigenous peoples when provinces try to misuse all their power, and authority as well, to try to shut down Indigenous rights' – MMF President David Chartrand 

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has instead characterized the agreement as a bad deal for future generations, including Métis people. But he riled up Indigenous leaders when he called the deal "hush money" for a "special-interest group."

This is the first time the federation has sought federal intervention in the issue; Chartrand has said the provincial Tory government "breached the honour of the Crown" but did not ask Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to step in.

Chartrand said the province’s decision to choose the high-powered law firm Osler pushed him to seek Ottawa’s help, because the firm has represented lucrative oil companies.

"There’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to afford trying to get these kinds of big firms; I know Kinder Morgan can afford it, and I know the province can afford it."

On June 25, a judge will hear the federation’s request for a judicial review of the cancellation of the deal.

The federation also plans to file a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the government.

The National Energy Board has yet to approve the transmission project.

Chartrand said when hearings get underway, the federation will call on Pallister to be cross-examined.

He said his reasoning is an order-in-council that asks Manitoba Hydro to have the Crown services minister — not the premier himself — review all decisions involving Indigenous people.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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