Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Nation Of Laws

                                          DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

This week's Supreme Court decision is not a blanket rejection of pipelines. It's more complicated and far reaching than that. Tom Walkom writes:

First, it doesn’t exclude aboriginal lands from provincial laws. Provinces are free to make laws about matters like oil drilling and forestry. But these laws must be applied to lands under aboriginal title in a manner that protects native rights.

For instance, provincial governments can’t unilaterally let forest companies clear-cut Indian land.

Second, the decision does not give first nations a veto over government-authorized projects that affect their lands.

In fact, the eight justices ruled that for purposes of “building up infrastructure’ or “general economic development,” federal and provincial governments can override the wishes of first nations — even those that possess clear aboriginal title to their territory through treaties or court decisions.

The decision, however, does set forth is a set of principles. Governments must:

consult with the First Nation in a meaningful way, in an effort to win its consent.

have a “compelling and substantial public purpose” for overriding a first nation if that consent is not obtained.

must maintain their constitutional duty to protect First Nations. In particular, they must act in a manner that protects aboriginal territory for future generations.

For a government which tore up the Kelowna Accord, bad mouthed Chief Theresa Spence and generally treats all its opponents -- not just First Nations -- with contempt, the Court sent a clear message.

Canada is a nation of laws, not men. More specifically, it is a nation in which one man does not make the rules.


The Mound of Sound said...

I'm skeptical that this decision will serve as a rule book for government/First Nations conflicts over the Northern Gateway. Consultations, concessions and bribes by the government, in its own right and on behalf of Enbridge, the fossil fuelers, and the Chinese are unlikely to defuse the situation.

Every pundit seems to be desperate to read too much into this decision when a lot of the groundbreaking provisions still await testing and interpretation.

Owen Gray said...

I'm sure that Northern Gateway will be in the courts for years, Mound. It will be interesting to see what kind of precedent this decision sets.

Toby said...

You have more optimism than I do, Owen. I think Harper will call out the troops if necessary to get his way.

Owen Gray said...

You may be right, Toby. But -- if past behaviour is any indication -- it appears that when it's clear he can't get his way, he quits.

Anonymous said...

It was said? Harper signed a deal with, the Communist China Army. True or not? I don't know.

Harper's cabinet is also mulling a, massive Chinese resource project in the High Arctic. I thought that was why, Harper didn't need a military up there?

Petro-China also put in a bid to *help* build the Enbridge pipeline. That to me is why Enbridge is so rabid to build the pipeline. No doubt Enbridge would have some really cheap Chinese labor.

Many, many BC people resent the Chinese over here. They take the resources and the resource jobs as well. BC miners want the Chinese removed.

Needless to say, most BC citizens dislike Harper and his cabal. The Campbell/Clark BC Liberals also work for Harper.

I think Harper knows how much he is very disliked. It wouldn't surprise me one bit? If Harper would permit The Chinese Army, to guard the Enbridge pipeline.

Owen Gray said...

The Supreme Court ruling is going to make it hard for Harper to deliver on his pipeline promises, Anon.

That oil may never make it to China.

Anonymous said...


If Harper did something like that one could almost certainly make out a criminal case of Treason against the man for doing so. For any head of government to allow the army of a foreign nation to guard something within our own national boundaries that does NOT have consular protections is almost a definition for treason from where I sit, and I suspect many others.