OTTAWA, O.N. — The Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal today by the Mikisew Cree First Nation that said the federal government does not need to consult with First Nations when drafting legislation that could infringe on treaty rights.
The First Nation, which is a signatory to Treaty 8, is fighting the passage of Bills C-38 and C-45 by the previous federal government in 2012. The two omnibus budget bills tabled by the Conservatives changed a number of federal environmental laws including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. These included changes to the scope, depth and frequency of federal environmental assessments and protections in Mikisew’s territory and throughout Canada.
The Mikisew Cree brought a legal challenge to the previous government’s actions for failing to consult the First Nation on the changes. In 2014, a Federal Court judge agreed with the Mikisew Cree First Nation that governments have a legally binding duty to consult First Nations when developing legislation that may impact the rights and lives of First Nations. The Federal Court of Appeal overturned the lower court decision late in 2016.
“Law making is the most important form of Crown decision making,” said Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Archie Waquan. “It is corrosive to the process of Reconciliation for the government to say that it does not need to consult with First Nations on legislation that may adversely affect our Treaty Rights. It is our hope that the Supreme Court of Canada will confirm that the federal government and all other governments in Canada must consult with First Nations on legislation that may adversely affect our rights. Ultimately, this will benefit all Canadians.”