A P.E.I. court heard on Thursday that businessman Don McDougall was caught in a crossfire between the province and two Mi’kmaq First Nations after he purchased the Mill River golf course in early 2017.
David Hooley, counsel for McDougall, argued that representatives from the Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations failed to adequately inform him of their intention to challenge the province’s sale of the land to McDougall. He told the court that an injunction was not sought prior to early 2017 to stop the redevelopment of the site and that McDougall was largely left in the dark about the dispute.
The P.E.I. court of appeal heard the final day of arguments related to a legal challenge of the 2017 decision by the province to sell Mill River to McDougall for $500,000.
In June, Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell dismissed an application for judicial review of the province’s sale, brought about by the Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations. Campbell’s decision stated that the province had met its duty to consult with the two First Nations.
Hooley stated that the province’s impending sale of the Mill River golf course was publicized in local newspaper articles dating back to 2012. McDougall was not aware of specifics of talks between the province and the two Mi’kmaq communities, Hooley said.
"No one was saying to him that 'we object, we oppose, we think we have a veto,’ ” Hooley said.
"From his perspective, the Mi'kmaq sat on their rights, so to speak."
McDougall pursued the purchase of Mill River with an understanding of its importance to the region of West Prince, Hooley said.
“Mill River for Don McDougall is a legacy project,” Hooley said. “He has deep roots in West Prince.”
McDougall also understood that the property would have required up to $7 million in investments to make the property economically sustainable, Hooley said.
Hooley suggested that the Mill River site was insignificant to an assertion of title made by the Mi’kmaq over all of Prince Edward Island.
"In our submission, there's lots of other land – crown land and privately-owned land – that can be purchased to make amends to the Mi'kmaq if they eventually were to succeed in their claim to Aboriginal title," Hooley said.