A central Alberta businessman who won’t apply for a municipal development permit, maintaining his store sits on aboriginal land, is contemplating taking his fight to the Supreme Court.
This week, Joachim (Joseph) Fromhold was disappointed by a judge’s ruling that he was too late to appeal a County of Lacombe cease operations order, which was issued in July 2018.
Madam Justice Barbara Lea Veldhuis decided Fromhold failed to provide an adequate explanation for why he delayed filing his notice of appeal beyond the set time limit.
The original court decision that backed the county’s position came down in January, and Fromhold missed the 40-day window to file an appeal.
In her written decision, Veldhuis stated Lacombe County “will suffer prejudice” if Fromhold’s appeal extension was granted, “given the lengthy delay and the resources expended in enforcing the court orders to date.”
Fromhold responded on Thursday that he’s thinking of taking his “constitutional” argument to the Supreme Court.
He maintains his non-status Mountain Cree Band has historically occupied the land his business sits on in the hamlet of Mirror, about 52 kilometres northeast of Red Deer.
As a band member, he believes a municipal development permit would impinge on his band’s autonomy, and therefore, on his constitutional rights.
A Lacombe County official thinks Fromhold needs to pay the $200 development permit to run the antique store, band office and museum complex in Mirror’s converted railway bunkhouse.
After repeated requests for a permit, county development officer Peter Duke issued a cease operations order for Fromhold’s antiques business in July 2018. When Fromhold failed to comply with it, the county took him to court.
After further noncompliance, county representatives were allowed to seize items at the store “related to business and operations” last August.
Duke has stated he knows of no land claim by the Mountain Cree band — and even if the band did establish aboriginal title to this land, provincial and municipal rules would still require a development permit.
But from Fromhold’s perspective, there’s a federal basis to his argument: He said the Supreme Court ruled that non-treaty aboriginal bands that never surrendered their land continue to have autonomy over it.
And “the Supreme Court overrides provincial and municipal laws.”
He next plans to explore the availability of a legal subsidy to help aboriginal groups defray court costs. Fromhold is also considering moving his business operations to another municipality that’s willing to be more flexible.