NAN pleased Ontario Court of Appeal finds jailing first nation leadership not the answer in land disputes

    THUNDER BAY, ON, July 7 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand
Chief Alvin Fiddler is pleased by the decisions of the Ontario Court of Appeal
today in the cases of Frontenac Ventures Corporate v. Ardoch Algonquin First
Nations and Platinex v. Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nations where the
court found that jailing First Nation leadership in a land dispute with the
Crown was "too harsh" and should only be used as a last resort.
    "This is good news for the leaders of First Nations who are concerned
about being jailed for protecting their lands and defending their Aboriginal
and treaty rights," said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. "The Courts are
saying that Ontario has an obligation to actively bring about reconciliation
with First Nations and not just stand on the sidelines when First Nations
leaders are at risk of being incarcerated," said Fiddler.
    Today's decisions by Justices James MacPherson, Marc Rosenberg and
Kathryn Feldman granted the appeals by the First Nations leadership of both
communities and concluded that jailing First Nations leadership in disputes
between the Crown and Aboriginal people should only be used as a last resort.
    "The use of incarceration as the first response to breach of the
injunction dramatically marginalizes the significance of aboriginal law and
aboriginal rights. Second, imposing a lengthy term of imprisonment on a first
offender fails to recognize the impact of years of dislocation." (par. 58)
    NAN had intervener status at the appeal and argued that the lower court
had missed an important legal step when it sentenced the First Nations
leadership to six months in jail rather than continuing the negotiation
process that was required as part of reconciliation between First Nations and
the Government of Ontario.
    "In my view, the Court has set a different and higher standard for
granting injunctions when cases involve restricting asserted Aboriginal and
Treaty rights. The decision sends a strong message to the Ontario government
that negotiation, not incarceration, is the best way to reconcile the claims
of our Aboriginal communities with the rights of the Crown," said lawyer
Julian Falconer who, along with Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto,
represented NAN at the Court of Appeal.
    The KI leadership and the Ardoch leadership were sentenced to six months
in jail for civil contempt of court after disobeying court orders which
allowed mining exploration on traditional territories.
    In declaring the sentences too harsh, the Court of Appeal stated "... in
light of the progress already made, much of it with the encouragement and
assistance of the motion judge, there was no need to bring down the hammer of
long jail sentences and very substantial fines." (par. 65)

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization
representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty 9 and Ontario
portions of Treaty 5 - an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario.

For further information:

For further information: Michael Heintzman, Media Relations Officer -
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4906 or (807) 621-2790 mobile

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