By Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
The fight over logging on Grassy Narrows First Nation, Treaty 3, isn’t over.
Those are the words of Joseph “J.B.” Fobister, part of the group of people who appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to halt logging on the land he traps on.
“The fight isn’t over,” said Fobister when APTN National News reached him on his cellphone Friday.
Fobister said despite the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Ontario Friday, allowing them to “take up” land on Treaty 3, the province now has a duty to consult and honour the treaty.
He believes this means before the province grants logging licenses, particularly clear-cutting rights, they have to consult.
“The decision doesn’t give the province the power to continue with clear cutting. The decision puts squarely on the shoulders of the province that they have duty to honour and respect treaty rights,” said Fobister. “There has to be more meaningful consultation.”
If treaty rights are not honoured it could lead to blockades and protests, Fobister said.
“This is by no means an end to our fight against clear cutting. We’ll continue fighting,” he said. “Of course, (blockades and protests) are still an option we will exercise. Like I said the fight is not over and there will likely be another day in court in the future.
For years the First Nation has been battling the province to stop logging and mining companies from trespassing in its treaty area.
Grassy Narrows went to court in 2005 and won in 2011.
But that victory was overturned last year by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The case involved whether Canada or Ontario has the jurisdiction to issue logging permits on the Grassy Narrows territory.
Now, the Supreme Court has also ruled against the First Nation in a 7-0 decision.
“I have concluded that Ontario has the power to take up lands in the Keewatin area under Treaty 3, without federal approval or supervision. Provided it does so in a manner that respects the requirements set out in Mikisew, doing this does not breach Treaty 3 harvesting rights,” the ruling reads and can be found here.
The case was heard May 14.
According to the decision, the Ontario government granted a license to a “large” pulp mill company to clear-cut areas on Crown lands within Keewatin in 1997.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia supported Ontario in the case, while a long list of First Nations backed Grassy Narrows as interveners.
One of the main questions in the case focused on whether Ontario has the right to take up land within Treaty 3 that was negotiated with the federal government.
The Supreme Court said the view that only Canada can take up land, or authorize it, is a “misconception.”
“It is true that Treaty 3 was negotiated with the Crown in right of Canada. But that does not mean that the Crown in right of Ontario is not bound by and empowered to act with respect to the treaty,” Friday’s ruling stated.