The lawyer at the heart of the controversial Alton Gas legal brief is planning to sue the Nova Scotia government, Stephen McNeil and Diana Whalen, according to documents filed in court Friday.
Alex Cameron was removed from the Alton Gas appeal case in December after his court filings on the case included offensive language towards the Sipekne’katik First Nation.
In the documents, Cameron accuses McNeil, Whalen and the province of “defamation, abuse of public office, constructive dismissal and constitutional violation.” The allegations are part of a request for a sweeping publication ban on the case citing solicitor-client privilege.
The legal brief that prompted Cameron’s removal from that case argued the province didn’t have a duty to consult with the Sipekne’katik First Nation because the duty to consult extended only to “unconquered people,” and the band’s submission to the Crown in 1760 negated its claim of sovereignty and negated the government’s constitutional duty to consult.
The arguments prompted a public backlash, that ultimately led Premier Stephen McNeil to apologize to the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs
“I believe that brief went way beyond where it needed to go,” McNeil said in November. “I am looking for an explanation from the (Justice) Department.”
When the controversy erupted in the fall, Naiomi Metallic, chair of aboriginal law and policy at Dalhousie University, said the arguments put forward by Cameron were “legally and factually wrong.”
“Native people in Canada were never conquered and it’s a racist idea to say we’re conquered,” she told Global News.
Cameron retired from government in April
According to the Friday court filings, Cameron retired in April after a 25-year career in government. He blamed McNeil, Whalen and the province saying the conduct of the named parties “rendered continued employment intolerable.”
The government launched a review of the legal brief and why the arguments were allowed but in April, Whalen told reporters that none of the findings would be released.
Whalen and McNeil have both denied any prior knowledge of the legal argument that Cameron was going to make on the government’s behalf.
Justice department spokesperson Sarah Gillis confirmed Cameron retired effective April 30 but declined further comment.
“As this will be a matter before the Court, we will be unable to comment,” she said in an emailed statement.
Leaders respond on the campaign trail
Asked about the pending lawsuit, McNeil said his beliefs on the case are “public record.”
“I believe the province of Nova Scotia has a duty to consult,” he said. McNeil said he didn’t know Cameron had left government.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said he hopes the lawsuit will reveal the answers that the Liberals were unwilling to give in government.
“There is a lot that remains secretive and hidden about the decision to go forward with that argument in court,” Baillie said on Monday. “It defies credibility to believe that a case as sensitive as that would not have been signed off by the minister of (justice) if not the premier’s office.”
Asked if he would release the secret review if he forms government, Baillie said “absolutely, every last word, people need to know.”
The request for an in-camera hearing will be heard on May 23 at 9:30 a.m.