The Globe and Mail reports, “The Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Frog Lake First Nation will file documents in Federal Court on Tuesday arguing that treaties require the federal government to protect traditional native territory from environmental degradation. …Robert Janes, a lawyer for the two Alberta first nations, said the legal proceedings will attack Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, two massive budget bills which contained clauses that significantly reduced federal environmental oversight. …Bill C-45 will significantly reduce the number of federal environmental assessments that are required when resources are developed and will reduce the number of waterways that are protected by the Navigable Waters Protection Act.”
“‘The case essentially says that the government has been, over the last year and a half, carrying out a policy that’s been largely designed to gut much of the federal protection and the federal environmental assessment legislation that first nations have relied upon to protect their treaty rights and to have the federal government involved in protecting their treaty rights,’ Mr. Janes said.”
“When the treaties were signed, the first nations asked the government if they were being asked to give up their traditional way of life, especially the hunting, fishing and trapping that they did outside the confines of their reserves, said Mr. Janes. ‘And the government said ‘absolutely not. In fact, we are here to protect your way of life,” he said. ‘So these first nations are upset that the protections that they have had for these rights from the federal government have essentially been significantly watered down, if not effectively gutted.’ …The Supreme Court has said that the government has a duty to consult when it brings in laws that affects first nations. But, in the case of these bills, there has been no consultation, said Mr. Janes.”
The article notes, “The first nations are asking the court to stop the implementation of the environmental sections of the bills and to supervise the process going forward to ensure that the government complies.”
This Federal Court case is in addition to the injunction that will be sought by the Hupacasath First Nation, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the Chiefs of Ontario (with the support of the Council of Canadians, West Coast Environmental Law, and Leadnow.ca) that argues the Harper government breached its constitutional obligations to consult First Nations when negotiating the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).
Naomi Klein recently commented, “If Canadians have a chance of stopping Mr. Harper’s planet-trashing plans, it will be because these legally binding rights (in treaties) — backed up by mass movements, court challenges, and direct action will stand in his way. All Canadians should offer our deepest thanks that our indigenous brothers and sisters have protected their land rights for all these generations, refusing to turn them into one-off payments, no matter how badly they were needed. These are the rights Mr. Harper is trying to extinguish now.”
More on the injunction against Canada-China FIPA at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18699. Naomi Klein’s commentary can be read at http://rabble.ca/columnists/2012/12/idle-no-more-chief-theresa-spences-hunger-speaks-all-us#.UNiSJKrKQOI.facebook. Today’s Globe and Mail article on the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Frog Lake First Nation legal challenge can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/alberta-first-nations-launch-court-battle-over-omnibus-bills/article7013228/.