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Supreme Court of Canada Grants Leave to Appeal in Keewatin

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Aboriginal Law Bulletin

On September 19, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada granted Grassy Narrows First Nation leave to appeal the Keewatin v. Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources)[1] decision rendered by the Ontario Court of Appeal on March 18, 2013.

In granting Grassy Narrows leave to appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada also denied leave of the Grand Council of Treaty 3 to intervene in the leave motion but allowed the Grand Council to apply for leave to intervene in the appeal itself.

The principal issue before the Court of Appeal in Keewatin was whether the Government of Ontario had the right to take up lands subject to Treaty 3 in the place of the Government of Canada. Treaty 3, which was negotiated and signed by Canada, allowed First Nations the right to pursue hunting and fishing on Treaty 3 lands but made those rights subject to Canada’s decision to later “take up” certain lands for mining, forestry and other purposes.

The Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s ruling that Canada must approve any taking up of lands by Ontario. That decision provided welcome certainty to the many forestry and mining licences granted by Ontario on Treaty 3 lands. The Supreme Court of Canada is now set to provide its guidance on this important issue.

For further information on Keewatin, please see our bulletin on the Court of Appeal’s decision released in March 2013, and our bulletin on the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision released in August 2011.

[1] 2013 ONCA 158

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