Alberta (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development) v. Cunningham

Supreme Court of Canada – [2011] 2 S.C.R. 670

Alberta Canadian Charter of Rights and FreedomsGovernance (self-determination, self-government)IdentityMétis

Summary

The Court determined that Métis could be refused rights guaranteed by the Metis Settlement Act upon registering as status Indians.

 This treatment could be considered a violation to the right to equality guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it creates a distinction between Métis with Indian status and those without, but it comes from an ameliorative program with the goal of enriching the culture, identity and autonomy of the Métis.

Issue

Do the Métis Settlements Act violate the Charter? If yes, is this violation a reasonable limit imposed by a rule of law that is justified in a free and democratic society?


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Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band v. Canada (Attorney General)

Supreme Court of Canada – [2011] 3 S.C.R. 535

British Columbia Aboriginal rightsHonour of the CrownTraditional territory

Summary

The Supreme Court refused to recognize an extended aboriginal right to trade fish on ancestral territory. The possible evolution of Aboriginal rights is acknowledged, but within qualitative and quantitative limits that do not permit the creation of a new right.

Issue

Do the practises, costumes, and traditions of the Lax Kw’alaams allow for the recognition of the modern right to commercial harvesting and sale of all varieties of fish?


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Osoyoos Indian Band v. Oliver (Town)

Supreme Court of Canada – [2001] 3 S.C.R. 746

British Columbia Indian ActLands reserved for IndiansTaxation

Summary

This decision confirms that Band Councils have the power to adopt property tax by-laws on expropriated reserve land, unless the Crown has stated in a clear and plain way its intention of extinguishing the aboriginal title.

Issue

Can an Indian band assess and impose a property tax on expropriated land located within the limits of its reserve?


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Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. v. Carrier Sekani Tribal Council

Supreme Court of Canada – [2010] 2 S.C.R. 650

British Columbia Aboriginal rightsConsultationHonour of the CrownTraditional territory

Summary

This decision confirmed that First Nations can obtain compensation for lack of consultation. Any effect on an Aboriginal right must be harmful and novel in order to trigger a duty to consult. If the resource was modified a long time ago and the government action poses no new threat, the obligation is to compensate and not to consult.

Issue

Is the British Columbia Utilities Commission (the “Commission”) required to consider the issue of consultation with the CSTC First Nations in determining whether the sale of excess power from a dam to a Crown corporation is in the public interest? Does the duty to consult apply in situations where a land claim is pending?


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Beckman v. Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation

Supreme Court of Canada – [2010] 3 S.C.R. 103

Yukon ConsultationHonour of the CrownTreaties

Summary

This decision defines the Crown’s duty of consultation and accommodation in the context of modern treaties. Although modern treaties may be more detailed and precise than historic treaties, the honour of the Crown can dictate that there be consultation and accommodation in the instances where rights are affected and the treaty has no procedural provision.

In this manner, “recent” treaties can “evolve” according to the applicable law in Canada. “Reconciliation in the Yukon, as elsewhere, is not an accomplished fact. It is a work in progress.” (par. 52 of the decision)

Issue

Does the Government of Yukon have a duty to consult the First Nation of Little Salmon/Carmacks pursuant to a treaty before approving the land grant of 65 hectares to a resident, Larry Paulsen? If yes, what is the scope of this obligation?


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