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Judge orders Blueberry River First Nations to hand over industry agreements ahead of Treaty infringement trial

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A BC Supreme Court judge has ordered the Blueberry River First Nations to produce documents containing any impact benefit agreements pertaining to industrial development on the First Nations’ traditional territory ahead of a major trial scheduled to begin in almost two months.

Nearly three years ago, the Blueberry River First Nations sued the B.C. government, claiming that the cumulative impact of industrial development on its traditional territory has breached the government’s obligations under Treaty 8. The First Nation claims that its members are no longer able to exercise their treaty rights as originally intended. The case is scheduled to go to trial on March 26th and could last over three months.

Last year, the First Nation lost a bid to get an injunction against any new development on its lands, though the judge did rule that “irreparable harm” had been done by industry. In December, arguments were heard after the government filed to get the First Nation to produce seven categories of documents from the First Nation. Those categories included: revenue received from companies operating in the region, revenue sharing agreements, communications with other Treaty 8 First Nations, and recordings or transcripts of members of the First Nation that would not be appearing as witnesses during the upcoming trial.

On January 25th, Madam Justice Emily Burke ruled that the Blueberry River First Nations produce the following categories of documents as disclosure in the court case:

  • Maps of traditional territory or land use which are in the plaintiffs’ possession and control.
  • Traditional Land Use Studies.
  • Transcripts or recordings of interviews relating to such studies with Blueberry River First Nations members who will be called as witnesses at trial.
  • The Blueberry River First Nations Communications documents, including newsletters, bulletins, Band Council minutes, and non-public website posts.
  • Agreements, arrangements, joint ventures, term-sheets, payments, donations, and programs between or involving Blueberry River First Nations and Industrial Development Proponents, currently or in the past, except:
  1. documents that relate to industrial developments where Blueberry River First Nation has objected to a project which proceeded despite the objection; and
  2. requests for and receipt of capacity funding from Industrial Proponents, including capacity funding agreements.

Madam Justice Burke ruled that the First Nation would not have to produce documents on the Blueberry River First Nations’ Treaty Claims, communication with other Treaty 8 members, documents of companies owned by First Nation members, and recordings of members not taking the witness stand.

The full ruling can be read here.

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