Musqueam Band Strategy 102: The Army

For non-lawyers, it’s hard to grasp how the City of Richmond has wronged the Musqueam Indian Band. In Musqueam Band Strategy 101, we tried to follow how the Band was forced to sell the Garden City Lands to the City. We went through Chief Ernest Campbell’s account of the 167 days when the Band leaders negotiated with the City, deliberated among themselves, considered their lawyer’s advice, signed the agreement, and confirmed it twice. Also, since the Band was a joint venture partner with Canada Lands Company CLC Limited, it had access to CLC’s vast expertise. In view of all that, we still don’t get why the Band would feel they had to accept the offer “under duress.”

Maybe we’ll do better in Musqueam Band Strategy 102? Here goes.

The partnership sold the property to the City for over $59 million, which is over six times what CLC as the federal land disposer had agreed to pay the federal government for the property in 2005.  The Band (with no initial cost) and CLC seem to have netted about $24 million each. That seems like a win.

But what stumps some of us non-lawyers is the end of the writ, where the Band lists the relief it’s seeking. We expected the Band would seek an order for the City to return the property the partners had been forced to sell nine days earlier. The City would have to take back the piddly $59.17 million it had forced on them.  Instead of having CLC and the City messing up applications to the Agricultural Land Commission, the Band would simply take care of the ALR exclusion itself.

Then we came across a June 5, 2007, letter from Chief Ernest Campbell. It was an open letter to several newspapers and, implicitly, the citizens of Richmond. What struck us was the chief’s choice of words of warning:

  • “costly litigation”
  • “throwing this issue back to the courts”
  • “taxpayers . . . forced to bear the brunt of further expensive litigation”
  •  “prepared to take the necessary action, up to and including the Supreme Court of Canada”
  • “costly and divisive litigation”
  • “an army of lawyers producing large legal bills for the city and others”

Win or lose, the citizens would have to deal with the huge cost of litigation that would go on and on and on. The Band’s case seems far-fetched to us non-lawyers, but we can envision the cost and unpleasantness ahead. Maybe community fatigue will set in and we’ll start shooting at each other in frustration. Maybe council infighting will do us in. Maybe the Band hopes we’ll hand over more millions just to end it all.

That’s one theory at a bad time, and perhaps the Band leaders have better intentions. However, the old saying puts it well: hope for the best and prepare for the worst. If we pull together, we’re likely to survive and even be better for it, but it won’t be easy.

More on this soon.


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