Attawapiskat Court Ruling: Judge Won't Remove Appointed Third-Party Manager

First Posted: 02/ 3/2012 4:34 pm Updated: 02/ 3/2012 5:38 pm

OTTAWA - A Federal Court judge has refused to remove the federal government's third-party manager appointed to handle the affairs of a northern Ontario reserve.

The Attawapiskat First Nation sought a temporary injunction to remove the manager appointed last year by Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

The community argues the imposition of the outside manager threatened irreparable harm.

Chief Theresa Spence says the third-party management is costing the community money it should be spending on housing and other needs.

Judge Michael Phelan refused to issue the injunction.

In a ruling Friday, he said the community had not demonstrated that the third-party manager would cause real and lasting harm.

He did order the two sides to work together on acquiring 22 trailers to alleviate the community's housing crisis.

The trailers have to be brought in on ice roads, and their arrival date is uncertain because of weather.

However, the judge ordered the manager to pay for the trailers as soon as the proper invoices are handed over.

He said that doesn't mean the community, the applicant in the court case, has to accept the legitimacy of the third-party manager.

"The applicant shall not be required to accept, acquiesce or acknowledge the legality of the appointment of the TPM (third-party manager) in order to secure payment of the invoices," he wrote.

Attawapiskat lies close to the shore of James Bay and has a troubled past, including floods and housing shortages.

Last fall, it became a focus of national attention when Chief Spence declared a state of emergency over a housing crisis.

Families were facing the winter in rundown shacks or tents. The Canadian Red Cross flew in supplies.

Duncan appointed the financial manager in response to the crisis. His officials also arranged to acquire the stop-gap trailers.

The judge wrote briefly about the terrible conditions at Attawapiskat, noting: "How conditions such as these could occur in a country as rich, as strong and as generous as Canada has yet to be determined. That issue is for another day."

Spence and her fellow band councillors are bitterly opposed to the third-party manager.

Judge Phelan acknowledged the anger in the case.

"It is not necessary at this stage of the judicial review application to deal in depth with the various back-and-forth exchanges and positions adopted. It is sufficient to say that there is a significant amount of frustration, anger and distrust."

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, who represents the area, says the ruling raises questions about the legitimacy of the third-party manager.

"The judge is sending a message that the third-party manager is not there to usurp the legitimate role of the band council," he said in an email.

"He is to pay the receipts. So the question comes back to, Why should such a poor community pay $20,000 a month to a guy who is simply there to rubberstamp the work the band is already doing?

"What needs to be clarified is why is the TPM sitting on money that should be going to teachers and the school?"

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    Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and Saskatchewan Native Brad Laroque alias "Freddy Kruger" come face to face in a tense standoff at the Kahnesatake reserve in Oka, Quebec, Saturday September 1, 1990. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Shaney Komulainen)

  • Oka Crisis

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    A Quebec Metis places a stick with an eagle feather tied to it into the barrel of a machine gun mounted on an army armored vehicle at Oka Thursday, Aug. 23, 1990. The vehicle was one of two positioned a few metres away from the barricade causing a breakdown in negotiations. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Grimshaw)

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    Ken Wolf, 9, walks away from a graffiti-covered smoldering car near the entrance to the Ipperwash Provincial Park in this September 7, 1995 photo. A group of aboriginal protesters were occupying the park and nearby military base. (CP PHOTO)

  • Caledonia Protests

    Caledonian activist Gary McHale (right) is confronted by a Six Nations Protester as he attempts to lead members of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) in carrying a makeshift monument to Six Nations land in Caledonia, Ont., on Sunday February 27, 2011. CANACE claim inequality in treatment for Caledonian residents from Ontario Provincial Police compared to that of the Six Nation population. They planned to plant a monument of six nation property to demand an apology from the OPP, but were turned back by protesters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Caledonia Protests

    First Nations people of the Grand River Territory stand with protest signs as they force the redirection of the Vancover 2010 Olympic Torch Relay from entering The Six Nations land Monday, December 21, 2009 near Caledonia, Ontario. The Olympic torch's journey across Canada was forced to take a detour in the face of aboriginal opposition to the Games, with an Ontario First Nation rerouting its relay amid a protest from a splinter group in the community. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)

  • Caledonia Protests

    Six Nations protesters guard the front entrance of a housing development in Hagersville, Ont., just south of the 15-month aboriginal occupation at Caledonia on Wednesday, May 23, 2007. The protest was peaceful. (CP PHOTO/Nathan Denette)

  • Caledonia Protests

    Mohawk protestors block a road near the railway tracks near Marysville, Ont. with a bus and a bonfire Friday April 21, 2006. The natives showed their support to fellow natives in Caledonia, Ont. where they were in a stand off with police regarding land claims.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)

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