Musqueam Band Strategy 101: The Duress

I’ve been asked what to make of the Musqueam writ. In this post, I will focus on the Musqueam account of the events surrounding Richmond’s offer and the Musqueam acceptance “under duress.”

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer in any sense. This is just an attempt to help people grasp the situation, not legal advice.

Tongue-in-cheek definition of “lawyer” sent by a Friend of Garden City: “an expert in getting around the law.”

Let’s start with a capsule summary. Through a joint venture company, the Musqueam Indian Band held a 50% beneficial interest in the Garden City Lands, a property assessed at almost $13 million. The City of Richmond purchased the property for $59.17 million.

A March 16, 2010, letter from Musqueam Chief Ernest Campbell to Richmond City Council describes how things happened:

  • On October 15, 2009, the City of Richmond made its offer to buy the property.
  • The offer was, in the chief’s words, “supplemented by our subsequent correspondence including the provisions set out in our letter of November 13, 2009 as confirmed by the City in its letter of November 25, 2009 and in our letter to the City of December 1, 2009.”
  • In the period between October 15 and the Band’s eventual acceptance of the offer 96 days later, there was, in the chief’s words, “much consideration by the band.”
  • In the same period, the Band Council received legal advice that a counter-offer would revoke the City’s Offer, and the Band did now want to run the risk that the City would reject the counter-offer.
  • On January 19, 2010, the Band accepted the offer.
  • On March 16, 2010, the chief sent his letter to council stating that “we were forced to accept the Offer” and that an intent of the acceptance was to avoid being “back in the state of uncertainty, and ever increasing costs.”  The chief also said, “as I stated in my letter to you of February 10, the Band stands fully behind our decision to accept the City’s Offer.”

The sale was completed on or about March 31, 2010. That was 49 days after the  Musqueam confirmation letter, 73 days after the Musqueam acceptance, and 167 days after the Richmond offer.

Soon afterward, on April 9, 2010, the Musqeum sued the City of Richmond, claiming the Band “accepted the offer under duress, and in order to mitigate its loss.”

In summary:

  • In a period of 47 days,  there was back-and-forth negotiation of provisions
  • In a period of 96 days, the Band received legal advice, engaged in much consideration, and worried about losing the City’s offer.
  • For 167 days after the offer, the Band felt under such duress to take the $59.17 million that it had to be silent until the chief wrote to complain while once again affirming the acceptance.

When breaking the silence, the chief had said that the Musqueam “confirm our desire to have a good relationship with the City.” We, the people of Richmond, were no doubt happy to be their friend. The City gave them our money. They sued us.

Acting “under duress” is sometimes explained as “acting with a gun to your head.” I was going to do an analysis at this point, but maybe the facts speak for themselves.

Coming soon to this blog: Musqeuam Band Strategy 102.

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