George Gordon First Nation v HMQ in Right of the Province of Saskatchewan and Canada (AG), 2020 SKQB 90

Application dismissed. The Government of Saskatchewan was not subject to a duty to consult with the First Nation regarding further mineral dispositions, as this was satisfied with the processes stipulated in the Treaty Land Entitlement agreement.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

George Gordon First Nation [“GGFN”] initiated this action by statement of claim, naming as defendants Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Saskatchewan [“Saskatchewan”] and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada [“Canada”]. It claimed various relief, including an interim and permanent injunction against the defendants from granting further mineral dispositions in the Jansen Area or Evaporite Area, and ten billion dollars in damages. Where an Entitlement Band requests acquisition of Crown minerals, the Ministry places a temporary freeze on the minerals pending its review of the request. If approved, the freeze will continue to allow the Band time to acquire the surface rights. This freeze period can continue for up to three years.

This application had a long and complex history, but it had the benefit of case management by an experienced justice of this Court. The parties involved in this application are sophisticated and represented by experienced and able counsel. To determine if the summary judgement process was suitable to dispose of this matter, the Court answered three questions in the affirmative: 1) can the judge to make the necessary findings of fact; 2) can the judge to apply the law to the facts; and 3) if this is a proportionate, more expeditious and less expensive means to achieve a just result (Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7). This matter was determined suitable for summary judgment. A trial was not required to determine the issues.

The allegation is that both Saskatchewan and Canada had and have a duty to consult with GGFN before Saskatchewan makes any mineral disposition on lands which could be selected by GGFN to satisfy its treaty land entitlement. Canada and Saskatchewan argue there was, and is, no duty to consult. Saskatchewan also argues that the GGFN Treaty Land Entitlement agreement [“TLE”] was intended to conclude the dispute and barred any further claims, including this one.

Canada had a duty to consult with and, where proved, accommodate GGFN and other TLE Bands with respect to land claims under Treaty No. 4. This was done through treaty land entitlement negotiations and agreements, including the GGFN TLE. Saskatchewan had no corresponding duty to consult under Treaty No. 4. Saskatchewan’s obligations under the TLE were to Canada, not GGFN.

Canada and Saskatchewan satisfied any duty to consult through the negotiations leading to the TLE Framework Agreement and, in the case of GGFN, the negotiations resulting in the GGFN TLE. If Saskatchewan had a duty to consult with GGFN about Crown mineral dispositions, that duty was satisfied by its practice of providing information to TLE Bands. GGFN’s claim of a duty to consult that extended to both notice of any applications and a right to supersede those applications went beyond any required consultation and accommodation. This would amount to a veto which the courts have rejected.

Even without a duty to consult, the honour of the Crown would still apply to Saskatchewan’s implementation of the GGFN TLE. Saskatchewan’s practices were fair and balanced. The honour of the Crown, which did apply, was respected. GGFN received the payments to which it was entitled from Canada and was able to obtain within the prescribed period its shortfall acres and other land, with minerals.

The claim of GGFN against Saskatchewan is therefore dismissed. Its claim against Canada was based on a duty of Canada to compel or assist GGFN to enforce its claim against Saskatchewan. The foundation for this claim is lacking. Canada does not exercise supervisory jurisdiction over the provinces with respect to the exercise of their constitutional authority. Nor did the GGFN TLE provide a contractual basis for Canada to compel Saskatchewan to provide GGFN with the requested notice of mineral dispositions and right of first refusal. GGFN’s claim against Canada was premised on a breach of duty by Saskatchewan. Since the claim against Saskatchewan is dismissed, there is no basis for a claim against Canada.

 

 

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