The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations has been named an intervener in a federal court case which could determine the way laws are created and implemented.
In May of last year, the Supreme Court of Canada allowed the Mikisew Cree First Nation to appeal a federal court of appeal decision. The court of appeal found the federal government did not owe a duty to consult when, within two omnibus bills, it developed and implemented changes to the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The FSIN Chiefs-in-Assembly passed a resolution mandating the FSIN should apply for intervenor status in the case. That status was granted on Jan. 15.
“First Nations should always be involved in the legislative process which impact Treaty and Inherent rights, and adequate resources must be available,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in a statement. “First Nations must be at the table when laws are being written.”
He added inclusion and involvement in the creation and implementation of laws would “breathe life into the government-to-government relationship.”
The Mikisew Cree First Nation is arguing the federal government had a constitutional duty to consult with their people before approving changes to the omnibus bills because they impacted the Treaty and Inherent rights.
Robert Janes, the lawyer representing the Mikisew, said the case is about consulting prior to making the rules rather than a regulatory decision. He argued Indigenous people are often kept from discussing “real issues” before regulatory boards.
“The place to deal with larger issues that First Nations often want to deal with are when the statuses are being designed. If you don’t deal with that in the design, the [regulator] doesn’t have the tools to deal with the problem when it comes up,” Janes said.
He added ensuring Indigenous people have a voice when laws are drafted will lead to better legislation, and potentially, reconciliation.
—With files from the Canadian Press
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