Even with Minnesota now wading into the boundary water rights dispute along with Fort Frances native Harold “Bo” Armstrong and Ranier, Mn. resident Carl Brown, the Canadian government still doesn’t know if it wants to get its feet wet.
Local MP Robert Nault’s office confirmed yesterday it had received a letter from Armstrong’s lawyer, Charles LeDuc, requesting a “letter of friendship to the court.”
“The Canadian government cannot get involved until it’s out of the court,” Armstrong said, noting Canada had no jurisdiction in another state’s court.
“But they can put in a letter of friendship to the court,” he added, which would be much like a token of support.
No decision has been made yet on what role, if any, Ottawa will play in this case.
Meanwhile, Armstrong said it’s a big step in their fight against Voyageurs National Park over boundary water rights now that the State of Minnesota has tossed in its support.
Armstrong and Brown were fined in the summer of 1996 for what VNP claimed was illegally taking paying customers on a boat tour through waterways which it had sole rights to.
Even though Armstrong said that was the one and only boat tour he’s operated through the park, he joined Brown’s fight against the park’s claims after being threatened his boat would be seized if he ever ran a tour.
“It’s a big step forward for us,” Armstrong said. “Carl’s been arguing all along the state never gave up their water right to the park. Now that the state has confirmed they haven’t given up their water rights, it’s a big thing.”
Armstrong and Brown met with Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch in St. Paul last month, along with Rep. Irv Anderson and Rep. Tom Bakk, Don Parmeter of the Border Water Appeal Alliance, and Joe Majors, lead attorney for the Department of Natural Resources.
“They threw it all around and went into another meeting room and when they came out, they announced they were on the bandwagon,” Armstrong said, noting Rep. Anderson said he would be trying to set up a meeting with Gov. Jesse Ventura on this issue.
“They asked us to keep it quiet until Ventura appointed [the commissioner] to the DNR,” he added.