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UPDATED: P.E.I. Mi’kmaq to appeal dismissal of Mill River sale review

Premier Wade MacLauchlan, center, chats with Pat Murphy, left, Minister of Rural and Regional Development and Mill River Resort owner Don McDougall during the resort’s official opening celebrations in June.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan, center, chats with Pat Murphy, left, Minister of Rural and Regional Development and Mill River Resort owner Don McDougall during the resort’s official opening celebrations in June. - Eric McCarthy

The Mi'kmaq of Prince Edward Island are appealing the dismissal of a judicial review into the province’s sale of the Mill River Resort to developer Don McDougall.

That deal included the Mill River golf course and surrounding property for $500,000 with the province committing $6 million for capital improvements over 12 years.

In a statement, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. said that after community engagement and a thorough review with legal counsel, the Mi’kmaq leadership has decided to appeal the dismissal to the P.E.I. Court of Appeal.

“The Mi’kmaq believe that the applications judge made significant legal errors in the reasons for judgement released on June 25,” reads the statement. “To protect the constitutionally entrenched Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Indigenous Mi’kmaq of P.E.I. the appeal is necessary.”

Related: Judicial review application dismissed in Mill River land sale

The judicial review decision was delivered by Justice Gordon Campbell on June 25. Campbell said when he examined the province’s consultations as a whole, he was satisfied they met and exceeded the duty to engage in meaningful consultations and to act in good faith toward the Aboriginal people and their interests.

Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis said the Mi’kmaq “will continue to work with the provincial government in a cooperative partnership on many issues and we remain committed to negotiations as the best path to the recognition and implementation of our Aboriginal and treaty rights. However, we are entrusted to uphold and protect the rights of our Mi’kmaq citizens, including our assertion of Aboriginal title and holding government accountable regarding the duty to consult.”

"We understand that the road to protecting our constitutionally entrenched Mi'kmaq rights may very well be a long one, but we are committed to standing up for the Mi'kmaq of this province,” said Chief Matilda Ramjattan of the Lennox Island First Nation.

“We also understand that many of the most critical decisions supporting the First Nations in this country were made on appeal, including at the Supreme Court of Canada level.”

In a telephone interview Thursday, McDougall said he is, “disappointed but not surprised” by the decision to appeal. However, he sees the legal battle as being one between the province and the Mi’Kmaq community. He also said the resort’s lawyer will be keeping watch on the proceedings

“It’s hard to imagine how it could affect us. They’re really trying to say the government acted improperly in proceeding with the sale without properly consulting with them. Well, that may or may not be true. The courts will decide, I guess.

“There’s only two possibilities (and) if they didn’t consult properly, then what would’ve happened? They would’ve been entitled to some compensation,” he said and suggested that would be provincial responsibility.” he said.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s office said government will take the time to review the appeal. It had no further comment.

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