During the February 28 2017 council meeting an item on the agenda included an outstanding tenant/landlord case residing in Wahta currently before the provincial courts. Of concern was the use of Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act (FHRMIRA) otherwise known as the Matrimonial Real Property (MRP).
The Certificate of Possession holder (CP) holder of the land in question is currently a council member and is also the ex-father in law of the tenant and did in fact evict the tenant in November 2016.
Chief and Council considers the litigation of civil, family, employment or other matters between individuals residing on Wahta to be a private matter, (with the exception of matters relating to child protection) and stated so in a reply letter sent to the tenant November 2016.
Chief and Council would like to clarify a few items of concern that have been misinterpreted.
In February 2017, it was brought to the attention of Chief and Council that the Justice residing over the case may in fact be using MRP to determine the outcome of the case.
The comments made by the Justice suggested that ex-partners could justify litigation against reserve members retroactively before MRP came into effect. This could potentially affect anyone that has suffered the breakdown of a relationship regardless of the timing thereby determining MRP to be ineffective. As a point of fact, the date of a relationship breakdown is what courts consider, not the date of divorce.
Considering the importance of the court’s interpretation of this new legislation, and the precedent that a decision in this matter would set for members of Wahta, as well as all First Nations across Canada, Chief and Council sought a legal opinion on the case from Falls Law.
To be clear, Chief and Council’s concern was the precedent-setting nature of this case and the implications it might have for all members and justly so did pay Falls Law $1000 on the legal opinion.
Chief and Council was not seeking to intervene in support of either party, and the legal opinion did not recommend intervention in support of either party.
On March 6 2017 the Justice stated that the limitation period regarding MRP for the tenant has run out, and the tenant is no longer entitled to a settlement under that legislation. He initially indicated through his comments there could be cause for MRP but ultimately did not rule in that direction. It appears the MRP issue has now been resolved.
Any further proceedings or outstanding financial decisions for either party does not involve Chief and Council whatsoever. Neither Falls Law or Chief and Council had any direct involvement in the case nor did we intervene on a Councilors behalf for his financial gain, such accusations are completely false.
The cost for Falls Law as indicated above was strictly for a legal opinion on a case that could have been precedent setting and quite impactful for all members. When legal issues arise that can impact the membership as a whole, it is the duty of Chief and Council to fully understand the legal implications.
Finally, it has been falsely stated that the proposed Trespass by-law has been introduced specifically to target the tenant as a result of the court proceedings with a draft by-law released one day after the court date.
The tenant in question was evicted November 15 2016, the motion for the Trespass by-law as stated below was first introduced to the community August 30 2016. It reads in part “Motion #2 08.10.05 – create an enforcement mechanism for CP holders and communal property”. It was also discussed at the October 29 2016 general meeting as part of the Strategic Plan Update.
It is evident that the events involving the tenant/landlord had not yet taken place when the Community Consultation process began for the by-law. The tenant has not been targeted in anyway and Council feels that although this an understandably difficult situation we must provide the actual facts of this complicated matter to the entire membership.