THE ASSEMBLY OF MANITOBA CHIEFS APPLIES TO INTERVENE AT THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA TO SUPPORT WILLIAMS LAKE & THE SPECIFIC CLAIMS TRIBUNAL

March 9, 2017. Treaty One Territory. Today the AMC filed an application for leave to intervene at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) on the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decision overturning the findings of the Specific Claims Tribunal (SCT) in Canada v Williams Lake Indian Band.

AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak stated “this case is of significance to First Nations in Manitoba. If left unchallenged, it allows Crown lawyers and the Courts to run roughshod over decisions of the Specific Claims Tribunal. It could also change the law on the Crown’s fiduciary duty to First Nations, a duty that cannot be eroded in Canadian courts in light of dozens of outstanding Treaty Land Entitlements (TLE) and Specific claims in Manitoba.”

In 2011 Williams Lake Indian Band of the Secwepemc Nation filed a specific claim for nearly 2,000 acres against Canada with the SCT. It was based on the alleged failure of the pre-Confederation colony of British Columbia to act in the Band’s best interests by protecting their lands. The Crown promised the Williams Lake Indian Band a reserve on its Village Lands. However, the Crown failed to create the reserve. Instead, it gave title to those lands to settlers. It then established a reserve on a piece of land a few kilometres away. The SCT concluded that this constituted a breach of the Crown’s fiduciary duty. The FCA quashed the Tribunal’s decision and substituted its own decision, concluding that any breach of the Crown’s duty that may have occurred was remedied by the setting aside of a different parcel of land some years later.

Grand Chief Nepinak said “this case will have implications for those Manitoba First Nations with outstanding Treaty Land Entitlements, or who were given a different parcel of land than they chose or were promised. It could also affect First Nations who have claims against the Crown for other breaches of fiduciary duty, since the SCC may give direction on how the Crown can take into account other public or private interests when it is acting as a fiduciary to First Nations.

This will be the first time the SCC has heard a judicial review of a decision of the SCT. In developing the SCT, the Assembly of First Nations worked with Canada to implement the commitments from Justice at Last, which included the development of the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, as well as a political agreement on specific claims reform. The federal government presented the resulting policy as a complete package that includes all of the elements essential to address First Nations’ historic grievances that is fair, transparent, efficient and respectful.

In this case, the Specific Claims Tribunal got it right; it heard directly from Elders and visited the land. Courts should not interfere with the evidence found without good reason. AMC is also seeking to intervene at the SCC because the FCA should not have substituted its own decision for that of the SCT. A process where the evidence of Elders and traditional knowledge holders is taken seriously is part of Canada’s obligations to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is part of what Canada must do to implement reconciliation” Grand Chief Nepinak said, adding “Again, sadly, this government does not give effect to Prime Minister Trudeau’s often quoted statement “to have no other relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.” Instead, it appears it is important only to have that relationship be adversarial one on different sides in a court of law.

For more information, contact: Derek, AMC Communications, communications@manitobachief.com or 204. 232.6768

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