Alberta: First Nations Push For Government To Protect Woodland Caribou; Claim Minister Has Not Complied With Court Order

Lawyers representing Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), and environmental groups filed a reply today to the federal Environment Minister’s failure to explain his decision not to recommend an Emergency Order to protect Woodland Caribou in northeastern Alberta.

On July 28, 2011 Mr. Justice Crampton ordered the Minister to reconsider his refusal to issue an Emergency Order, and this time to take into account treaty rights and the honour of the Crown, and to provide a meaningful explanation, including the evidentiary basis, of his reconsideration.

In the July 2011 judgment, the Court wrote: “… the Minister clearly erred in reaching his decision by failing to take into account the First Nations Applicants’ Treaty Rights and the honour of the Crown in interpreting his mandate under [the federal Species at Risk Act]. . . it is not immediately apparent how, given the foregoing facts, the Minister reasonably could have concluded that there are no imminent threats to the national recovery of boreal caribou.” The Court set aside the Minister’s decision because he failed to adequately explain it.

Almost six months later, the Minister had not publicly issued a reconsideration decision. On January 24, 2012 a motion was filed on behalf of BLCN, ACFN and environmental groups asking the court to impose a very short deadline for the Minister to issue his decision. After the motion was filed, Canada advised that the Minister had in fact reconsidered, and had decided once again not to recommend an emergency order. Canada provided a short summary of the Minister’s decision on February 1.

“We take the position that the Minister has not produced a decision in accordance with the direction of the court, therefore a deadline for compliance with the July order is still required,” explained Jack Woodward. “Mr. Justice Crampton’s decision was clear: the Minister was to provide meaningful reasons that would allow the Court and the Applicants to assess the reasonableness of his decision, and to understand how he could reach a conclusion not to issue an Emergency Order in the face of evidence to the contrary. In particular, the Minister was directed to consider whether his actions and inaction upheld the honour of the Crown and the First Nations Applicant’s treaty rights. In our view, the summary provided by the Minister does not comply with the Court’s direction.”

The two bands and environmental groups now await a decision from the Court.

Source: Woodward and Company

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