The Manitoba Metis Federation says it can see the "light at the end of the tunnel" in its court challenge over the province's decision to end a $67.5-million agreement to compensate Métis people for the planned construction of a hydro transmission line.
On Wednesday, Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal granted a request from lawyers for Manitoba Hydro and the provincial government to hold a preliminary hearing next month to decide a procedural issue before the MMF's judicial review goes ahead.
The MMF initially objected to the preliminary hearing, seeing it as an attempt to delay the judicial review — a suggestion lawyers for Hydro and the province denied. Joyal also directed lawyers to set a future court date for the judicial review, something the MMF wants to happen sooner than later.
That was an "innovative solution" by the judge, MMF lawyer Jason Madden said Wednesday.
"That’s a win for the MMF today... now we have the light at the end of the tunnel of when we’re actually going to have that hearing," he said.
The preliminary hearing is set for April 12 in the Court of Queen's Bench in Winnipeg. A hearing date for the judicial review has yet to be announced, but Madden said he hopes it will take place in the fall.
"Our clients have a long history of justice denied in this province, and I think that we want to get on with the hearing of the merits of this case because we think that it’s so strong but it’s also so clear that what Manitoba did a year ago by… attempting to direct Manitoba Hydro to not proceed with that agreement with the MMF was unlawful and unconstitutional."
In March 2018, the province decided to scrap a $67.5-million payment that was to be spread over 50 years to the federation, in exchange for, among other things, its agreement not to object to the construction of a planned Manitoba-Minnesota hydro transmission line.