(Ottawa, ON) – Following the October 19, 2018 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding Mikisew Cree First Nation stating that the federal government does not need to consult with First Nations prior to tabling legislation, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says Canada still has a duty to ensure its laws respect and honour First Nations rights and title.
“Today’s decision is disappointing, but it does reaffirm the federal government’s duty to uphold the Honour of the Crown, and that means respecting First Nations rights in any legislation,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “This case is the result of misguided attempts by the previous federal government to override our rights. The court itself says any legislation that does not respect First Nations rights or meet the Crown’s obligations can be challenged. First Nations are up for the challenge when these obligations aren’t met, but it shouldn’t have to get to that. With full and meaningful engagement with First Nations at the outset of any initiative that could impact rights or our territories, we can and will produce better results and avoid costly, lengthy legal challenges.”
The 78 page judgment in the case of Chief Steve Courtoreille on behalf of himself and the members of the Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Governor General in Council et al., SCc 37441 was released on October 19.
“First Nations are rights holders, not stake holders, and I lift up the Mikisew Cree for their fortitude and fully support them and all First Nations in asserting rights,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “The federal government has pledged to honour First Nations’ inherent rights and Treaty rights and to work with us to implement the UN Declaration, and I will continue to hold them to this standard. I will continue to push for a full review of all federal laws and policies to ensure that First Nations rights are reflected and respected.”
The Courtoreille/Mikisew Cree Nation case deals with Canada’s duty to consult with First Nations before introducing legislation. It arose in 2012 when the Minister of Finance introduced two omnibus bills that amended Canada’s environmental protection and regulatory legislative scheme. In 2013, Mikisew Cree First Nation, under Chief Steve Courtoreille, filed a judicial review application on the basis that Canada did not consult the Mikisew Cree First Nation on these changes which had potential to impact Mikisew’s Treaty rights. Canada does have an established duty to consult and accommodate when Indigenous rights and Treaties are affected. The issue in this case is if that duty applies to the legislative process.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates