VANCOUVER, B.C. – A judge found the province infringed on treaty rights by allowing industrial development in the traditional territory of the Blueberry River First Nations.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Burke said the province is no longer authorized to allow development activities that would impact Treaty 8 rights of hunting, fishing and trapping.
BRFN argued the combined impacts of development like roads, dams, transmission lines, and natural gas extraction have slowly reduced access to natural resources and practices.
Justice Burke said the Crown was allowed to infringe treaty rights by “taking up” land for roads, mines and projects determined to be “for the public good”, but she said there needs to be a limit.
“This power, however, is not infinite. The province cannot take up so much land such that Blueberry can no longer meaningfully exercise its rights to hunt, trap and fish in a manner consistent with its way of life. The province’s power to take up lands must be exercised in a way that upholds the promises and protections in the Treaty,” said Burke.
Once it is determined that a government infringed upon a treaty right, the government must compensate the First Nations. Instead of asking for compensation in the form of land or cash, BRFN is only asking for a halt to further development activities.
Justice Burke has suspended the order for a period of six months to allow time for the province and First Nations to negotiate changes.
“The Province may not continue to authorize activities that breach the promises included in the Treaty, including the Province’s honourable and fiduciary obligations associated with the Treaty, or that unjustifiably infringe Blueberry’s exercise of its treaty rights.
The parties must act with diligence to consult and negotiate for the purpose of establishing timely enforceable mechanisms to assess and manage the cumulative impact of industrial development on Blueberry’s treaty rights, and to ensure these constitutional rights are respected.”
Click here for the full ruling.
Blueberry River First Nations statement can be viewed below: