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Supreme Court decision gives province jurisdiction on First Nations land

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Compiled by Shari Narine







In a decision that Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy calls “a breach of Canada’s obligations to uphold international laws/standards and [one that] undermines Indigenous laws that have already been in place for centuries,” the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the Ontario government does not need federal approval to permit industrial logging on a First Nation’s traditional lands. Grassy Narrows appealed after Ontario’s highest court ruled in March 2013 that the province has the right to take up treaty land for forestry and mining. “Thus, when the lands covered by the treaty were determined to belong to the province of Ontario, the province became responsible for their governance with respect to matters falling under its jurisdiction … subject to the terms of the treaty,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the decision. “It follows that the province is entitled to take up lands under the treaty for forestry purposes.” Beardy said First Nations will continue to challenge government action on their lands. “The question that is being missed today is how did Canada and Ontario come to say they have decision-making power over First Nations’ homelands in the first place?” said Beardy in a statement.