Judge Ruled Manitoba Failed to Properly Consult with Indigenous Peoples on Flood Canal Management

Chief Judge of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Glenn Joyal said the province has failed in its constitutional duty to consult with indigenous peoples near Lake St. Martin, where the province plans to build two canals to reduce the risk of flooding.

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As part of the preparatory work, in 2019 the Government of Manitoba issued a Corona land permit to enable engineers to monitor groundwater and other activities.

The Tribal Council of the Interlake Preserve, which includes six communities in the area, said there were no prior discussions of tree felling and other work done.

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Lawyers for Manitoba argued that the province had begun negotiations with the indigenous peoples and the clearance was part of a wider consultation process on the project.

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Joyal, however, ruled that the clearance and other work carried out under the 2019 permit was not properly communicated in advance.

“I agree with the applicants when they say that during the period under review, before and shortly after the issuance of the permit, Manitoba had many opportunities to inform the applicants about the clearance required by the permit, but failed to do so. so in any meaningful way,” Joyal wrote in his decision released Thursday.

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Joyal added that the government only notified two of the four affected indigenous communities in advance of the work permit, and that was in an email during the Christmas holidays in 2018.

“The Christmas email didn’t say they only had seven business days to respond before the permit was issued.”

Joyal dismissed the indigenous peoples’ claim of inadequate consultation regarding a license issued to build an access road leading to the area.

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He wrote that the government followed due process and had the right to reject the license appeal.

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The legal battle is part of a larger dispute over a $600 million flood prevention project that will involve two canals built to divert floodwater from Lakes Manitoba and Lake St. Martin to Lake Olx Praca.

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The Lake St. Martin area was heavily flooded in 2011, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

The project has yet to be approved as environmental authorities in Olx Praca question whether the government of Manitoba has done enough to address indigenous concerns.

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