The Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba released a decision on November 12, 2014 in Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation v. RRFNT AKI Property Holdings Ltd, dismissing an application by the Trustees of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation Trust for a court order permitting them to complete a sale of lands held in trust. The Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation (RRAFN) argued that the sale of trust lands was proceeding without the permission of RRAFN's Council. The Trustees argued that Council's consent to sell the trust lands is not required since the sale is in the best interest of RRAFN, and that in any event, they did receive the requisite consent to engage in the sale.
The Court found that the Trustees were not acting in the best interests of RRAFN. Although the Court accepted that the prime consideration for the Trustees to consider when acting in RRAFN's best interests was financial in nature, it also noted that reserve land has "more than financial importance to [A]boriginal people" and may have, for example, cultural significance, sentimental value and occupational value to them. The Court also determined that the Trustees did not have the authority to engage in a sale agreement since they did not obey the consent requirements that are clearly outlined under Article 5.5(j) of the Trust Agreement.
Relying on various provisions of Manitoba's Trustee Act, the Trustees argued that the Court should grant authority to finalize the transaction regardless of whether they had Council's consent because the transaction was completed and therefore protected by "the defence of innocent purchaser for value". However, the Court found that the transaction was incomplete because title had not been registered in the purchaser's name and the purchaser was not 'innocent' since it was known that RRAFN had an encumbrance on title pending the completion of the requirements in Article 5.5(j) of the Trust Agreement. Thus, the Court found that the purchaser had no legal interest in the trust land and the sale agreement was void and of no force and effect.