AS CANADIANS, we should be embarrassed by the failure of our federal government to respect the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1997 Delgamuukw decision. Twenty-three years after that decision, Canada has still not negotiated a treaty with the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan nations. Instead, it relies on the use of force by the RCMP to push through a huge fracked gas project that will result in massive greenhouse gas emissions.
In Northwestern Ontario, we have seen the brutal impacts of pollution and climate change on First Nations communities.
Mercury poisoning still afflicts the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations on the English-Wabigoon river system. Northern First Nations communities see the first-hand effects of climate change every winter, including shortened winters and impassable ice roads.
Canada must do better to protect First Nations communities from the climate emergency. Our federal and provincial governments must respect Supreme Court jurisprudence on aboriginal rights and aboriginal title. It is unacceptable that our governments have failed for so long to resolve such important issues.
Let’s make sure that our national conversation on aboriginal rights and aboriginal title leads to a deeper understanding of the constitutional rights and responsibilities of both Canadian and First Nations governments.
The federal government’s misunderstandings of our foundational constitutional law and its failure to respect Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence have led us to the current conflict. It’s time for our government to change course, renounce the illegitimate use of force, and take the path of justice.
(Originally published March 7, 2020)