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The Manitoba Métis Federation filed on Monday to have the federal court overturn Premier Brian Pallister’s decision to kill a $67-million deal between the federation and Manitoba Hydro, arguing the Premier violated its members’ Indigenous rights.

Mr. Pallister’s repudiation of the deal was among the factors that prompted Hydro’s previous board to resign en masse in March, led by the high-profile chairman Sandy Riley. At the time, the Premier characterized the Manitoba Métis Federation as a “special interest group” and called the promised payments “persuasion money” meant to prevent Métis opposition to various Hydro projects.

In a filing with the Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday, the federation asked a federal judge to quash the government’s decision to kill the Manitoba Hydro deal, in which the utility agreed to pay $67-million over a number of years, and the federation agreed not to oppose a number of transmission projects.

The federation also asked the court for a declaration that Mr. Pallister and Minister of Crown Services Cliff Cullen had breached the honour of the Crown by misleading the public about the nature the agreement and by disparaging the governing body of the Métis people in the province.

In communicating the decision in March, the Premier and his minister “made statements that they knew or ought to have known were inaccurate, misleading, and would damage the relationship between the Crown and the MMF in contravention of the honour of the Crown,” the application says.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Cullen rejected that argument, and insisted the deal was merely a “proposal,” rather than a finalized agreement as the federation claims.

“We have been clear in our position from the start that this is merely a proposal, a bad deal for Manitoba taxpayers and would take away the constitutional rights of Métis children and grandchildren to be consulted on major projects for years to come,” he said. “Our government looks forward to defending our position in court.”

The Pallister government appointed a new Manitoba Hydro board in April.

In recent years, the Métis have gained increasing clout as courts recognized their status as Indigenous people, with rights protected under the Canadian constitution.

In the application, the Métis Federation says the deal in question was concluded with Manitoba Hydro under the Turning the Page Agreement, which was reached in 2014 by the Métis, the provincial government and the provincially owned utility to eliminate battles over development.

The broader agreement gave Manitoba Hydro full authority to conclude deals with the MMF aimed at securing support for its development projects, which the federation had formerly opposed owing to a lack of proper consultation, the application says.

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