OTTAWA, March 30, 2012 /CNW/ - National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated today that First Nations welcome the Supreme Court of Canada's refusal to hear the Crown's appeal of the Ahousaht case, which deals with the right of the Nuu-chah-nulth people to a commercial fishery.
"I am pleased with the signal sent by the Supreme Court of Canada in rejecting leave for the Crown's appeal," National Chief Atleo said. "It is surprising, though, that the case has been sent back to the B.C. Court of Appeal for review. This is an unusual action but First Nations are confident that the original decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal will stand and First Nation rights will be respected and upheld."
In the decision brought down on May 29, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Canada's appeal of the decision but referred the case back to the B.C. Court of Appeal to "be reconsidered in accordance with the decision of [the Supreme Court of Canada] in Lax Kw'alaams". The Lax Kw'alaams decision requires courts to determine whether a First Nation has proven the existence of a pre-contact practice, that the practice was integral to the pre-contact society and whether or not the claimed modern right has a degree of continuity, subject to issues of conservation.
AFN B.C. Regional Jody Wilson-Raybould said: "The ruling to send the Nuu-chah-nulth case back to B.C. Court of Appeal and reconsider it in the context of the Lax Kw'alaams case is disappointing. First Nations, including the Nuu-chah-nulth, want to move forward with productive negotiations that recognize and implement our rights. The delay is unfortunate and further court proceedings will be costly to Nuu-chah-nulth. As the court has dismissed the leave application, we hope that there is a renewed appetite within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to work with First Nations towards negotiated changes and an accommodation agreement that addresses the Nuu-chah-nulth concerns."
On May 18, 2011, the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the B.C. Supreme Court recognizing that the Nuu-chah-nulth hold an Aboriginal right to a commercial fishery, finding that both harvesting and selling fish were integral to Nuu-chah-nulth society prior to contact with Europeans.
"The decisions of the lower courts are consistent with the principles set out in the Lax Kw'alaams decision and I am confident the BC Court of Appeal's past findings will stand," National Atleo Chief said.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @NCAtleo, @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
For further information:
Alain Garon, Assembly of First Nations Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-2920857 or email firstname.lastname@example.org