Pasqua First Nation wins one round of court battle

Pasqua First Nation is one step further to having its day in federal court over a Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) Claim.

The First Nation claims that Saskatchewan and Canada failed to properly implement TLE Settlement promises. According to the TLE Settlement Agreement, the province is to make it a priority to fulfill longstanding Treaty 4 obligations by consulting the First Nation about any Crown lands or minerals available for purchase.

However, Saskatchewan has permitted new third party interests and has taken up land for lease and/or sale without consulting Pasqua First Nation. The band saw this action as contrary to the province’s TLE obligation, and in July 2014 took legal action.

The TLE Settlement Agreement states that all disputes would be heard at the Federal Court. Though it agreed this wording, Saskatchewan filed a court motion to strike the claim, saying that the Federal Court does not have jurisdiction.

Honourable Mr. Justice Boswell didn’t agree, dismissed the motion and ordered the province to cover costs.

In his reasons, the Judge cited the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Grassy Narrows First Nation v. Ontario when he stated “treaty obligations to aboriginal peoples are duties that bind the Crown. Insofar as both levels of government are responsible for fulfilling the Crown’s promises made in Treaty 4, it is important in the present case that…the Defendant Saskatchewan and the Defendant Canada, both be parties in this proceeding.”

Pasqua First Nation Chief and Council were pleased to see the courts provide clarity on this issue.

“The Saskatchewan Treaty Entitlement Act and the Settlement Agreement clearly provide for Federal Court Jurisdiction. We are thrilled that we can hold both Saskatchewan and Canada to the promises that we all agreed to in the Settlement Agreement. We look forward to moving forward as soon as possible to resolve the substance of our dispute,” said Pasqua First Nation Chief M. Todd Peigan in a press release.

“This is an important win for all those with outstanding Treaty Land Entitlement. Both Crowns have a responsibility to fulfill Treaty and to implement the Settlement Agreement in a way that upholds the Honour of the Crown. This starts by honouring the language in the Settlement Agreement that provides for Federal Court jurisdiction over the three signatory parties to the tripartite TLE Agreement,” said Cynthia Westaway, lawyer with Devlin Gailus Westaway, which represents Pasqua First Nation.

Canada took no position on the issue, and its remains to be seen if Saskatchewan will move forward or appeal the jurisdictional decision.

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