05/16/2015 02:23 EDT | Updated 05/16/2016 05:59 EDT

First Nations Group Demands Seat On The OLG Board After Winning Legal Battle

TORONTO - A First Nations group has won a seven-year legal battle to have a seat on the board of directors of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and is demanding the appointment be made immediately.

An arbitrator ruled last month that the provincial government breached its contractual obligations and acted in bad faith by refusing to appoint a member of the Ontario First Nations Limited Partnership to the OLG board.

Under a 2008 agreement with the province, the group dropped a $3-billion lawsuit in exchange for 1.7-per-cent share of gross revenues from various lotteries and gaming revenues, in addition to the right to have a First Nations representative appointed by the province to the OLG board.

In the seven years since that agreement was made, the partnership argued, the province has refused to allow a candidate to be appointed to the OLG board, while rejecting numerous applicants on the basis that they did not meet provincial requirements.

"I don't understand why," said Randy Sault, the group's general manager. "It's quite offensive behaviour that raises public policy questions about the ability of the government to break signed contracts."

The group claimed that the government intentionally delayed the appointment to exclude First Nations from taking part in a 2010 modernization plan for OLG, and that candidates were unfairly excluded from consideration without adequate explanation.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the government will respect the arbitrator's decision.

"We want an individual representing First Nations that is authorized by all concerned," he said in a recent interview.

"There have been issues with respect to, and I can't be specific in terms of who the candidates have been, but listen, they have to go through certain requirements as do all members who go on to a board and they have to provide clearance."

The group alleges that it wasn't until January, 2011, that the First Nations group became aware that there were issues with the nominees it had put forth and that they had been rejected.

The province also rejected a January, 2011 request that they provide a written explanation of the issues with the First Nations candidates that disqualified them from the board position and a written commitment to appoint a representative to the OLG board by March 15, 2011.

"Aboriginals have an important part to play in these things because it's our resources and land," Sault said.

The group has sent a letter to the province demanding that the government appoint a board member "immediately," but Sault said he's not optimistic.

"That probably won't go any farther, we'll probably end up litigating again."

A spokeswoman for Sousa said Saturday that an all-party legislative committee is now reviewing the proposed appointment of Steve Williams as a representative of the First Nations group to the OLG board.

Williams was first proposed to the OLG board in Nov. 2008, and he stated in a 2012 affidavit that in June 2010, OLG chair Paul Godfrey told him the premier would approve his application "in the next couple of days."

In June 2010, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno received a letter from then-Finance Minister Dwight Duncan that stated he was "confident that the appointment of a First Nations representative will be in place no later than the end of summer 2010."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the First Nations group won a court ruling

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