P.E.I. Mi'kmaq appeal to Supreme Court of Canada over Mill River sale

P.E.I.'s Mi'kmaq leaders are appealing the sale of the Mill River Resort to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In a statement issued Monday, the Mi'kmaq governments said it is their position that Aboriginal rights were not duly considered, and the province breached its duty to consult with the Mi'kmaq in the sale of the lands in western P.E.I. 

"The issue of Aboriginal rights is of great significance to the future of the P.E.I. Mi'kmaq," said Chief Junior Gould of Abegweit First Nation. 

"It is the responsibility of today's leadership to ensure that our rights are protected for generations to come." 

'Province fulfilled its duty'

The province sold the land, which included the Mill River resort, golf course and related properties, to businessman Don McDougall in 2017. The Mi'kmaq claimed the province did not meet its duty to consult and challenged the sale in January 2018.

In June of that year, the P.E.I. Supreme Court dismissed the challenge, saying government met, and exceeded, its duty to consult.

John Robertson/CBC

The Mi'kmaq of P.E.I., which includes the Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations, then appealed the decision to the P.E.I. Court of Appeal. The appeal court agreed with the dismissal and ruled the province met the duty to consult with the Mi'kmaq communities. 

"I find that the province fulfilled its duty to consult," P.E.I. Chief Justice David H. Jenkins wrote in his November 2019 decision. 

Now the case may be heading to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Decision expected this spring

The Mi'kmaq maintain their Aboriginal rights were not duly considered.

A decision on whether the Supreme Court will hear the case is expected in the spring. 

Chief Darlene Bernard of Lennox Island First Nation said the issue of consultation is vital to the protection of Mi'kmaq interests on Prince Edward Island.

"While our relationship with Premier [Dennis] King and his government remains strong, the issue of rights transcends today's governments and it is our responsibility to take this step."

More P.E.I. news