May 26, 2018

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MMF president walks out on meeting with Cullen, reaffirms plan to take legal action over land deal

Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand

Moments after Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand walked out of a last-ditch meeting Tuesday, MMF lawyers renewed preparations to take legal action against the government led by Premier Brian Pallister.

"We're going to find ourselves in a courtroom trying to resolve this," Chartrand told reporters after his brief (less than 20 minutes) meeting at the legislature with Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen. "We'll leave it up to a judge who's right and who's wrong."

Chartrand speculated it would take about a week to file all the paperwork necessary to ask for a judicial review to quash Pallister's order to Manitoba Hydro in March to kill a 50-year, $67.5-million land entitlement deal with the MMF.

Chartrand said Cullen's refusal Tuesday to give any ground shows Pallister is king, and no cabinet minister has any authority.

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Moments after Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand walked out of a last-ditch meeting Tuesday, MMF lawyers renewed preparations to take legal action against the government led by Premier Brian Pallister.

"We're going to find ourselves in a courtroom trying to resolve this," Chartrand told reporters after his brief (less than 20 minutes) meeting at the legislature with Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen. "We'll leave it up to a judge who's right and who's wrong."

Chartrand speculated it would take about a week to file all the paperwork necessary to ask for a judicial review to quash Pallister's order to Manitoba Hydro in March to kill a 50-year, $67.5-million land entitlement deal with the MMF.

Chartrand said Cullen's refusal Tuesday to give any ground shows Pallister is king, and no cabinet minister has any authority.

The premier's base doesn't believe in Indigenous rights, said the MMF president, who has maintained the federation has a binding agreement with Hydro that is part of the reconciliation process.

"He's (Pallister) scored already — he's fundraising already," Chartrand said. "He's got strong right-wing support behind him.

"They don't think that Indigenous rights should exist."

Chartrand warned there's a lot at stake: the Pallister government believes it can scrap any agreement reached between its Crown corporations and Indigenous people. "It sets a scary tone for all the agreements in Manitoba with First Nations," he said. "First Nations better be aware — this can happen to us."

Manitoba Crown Services minister Cliff Cullen

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Crown Services minister Cliff Cullen

The MMF had previously given Cullen two extensions to find a solution, after first threatening legal action several weeks ago.

"We have agreed to disagree," Cullen told reporters Tuesday. The minister said he'd offered to have a tripartite committee of staff and lawyers continue to talk, but Chartrand wouldn't accept it.

Pallister calls the MMF/Hydro deal a proposal; Chartrand calls it a binding agreement and an act of reconciliation.

Chartrand had predicted it would be challenging for the minister to pull off an agreement with the MMF, after Cullen accused the MMF of not speaking for all Métis people and Pallister called the Hydro deal "hush money" to buy off a "special-interest group."

Under the nixed deal, the MMF would agree not to oppose the proposed $453-million Hydro transmission line to Minnesota (planned to be in operation in 2020), as well as other projects over a 50-year period.

Cullen said the process to approve the transmission line will proceed as scheduled, next going before the federal National Energy Board.

Chartrand said Tuesday the MMF would continue to support the Minnesota transmission line, because it signed a binding agreement with Hydro and supports Manitoba economic development.

Cullen told a legislative hearing last week the Tory government was so worried about the potential long-term implications of the deal every government department participated in the review that led to cabinet killing the deal in March.

However, Chartrand said, "I'm hoping common sense will prevail."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Nick Martin.

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