The Canadian Press
HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia Crown lawyer behind a controversial legal brief implying members of a First Nation band are a conquered people has been taken off the case.
The province’s acting attorney general, Michel Samson, said Thursday that Alex Cameron has been removed from the Alton Gas appeal case, and replaced by Ed Gores.
“He (Gores) has been assigned to this specific file, the appeal that was launched on the minister of the environment’s decision,” said Samson.
He wouldn’t say whether any other disciplinary action had been taken against Cameron, or whether he would be allowed to work on other files involving Indigenous issues.
Mi’kmaq groups have raised objections to the government’s use of Cameron after he penned a 2009 book that attacked the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Marshall decision on fishing rights. They informed the government of their position in a letter written by chiefs in 2009.
Samson, filling in for Justice Minister Diana Whalen, who is on health leave after a heart attack, said a review she initiated on how the brief made it to court is still ongoing.
He wouldn’t say whether the province is applying to have it withdrawn before the judge rules on the appeal in the Alton Gas case, expected in January.
“We are certainly aware … of some of the timeline that’s proposed for a decision here. The review is ongoing and I’m unable to comment any further.”
The Indian Brook band appealed the natural gas storage project last month, saying the province had a duty to consult.
The government brief said the Crown’s obligation to consult extended only to “unconquered people,” and that the band’s submission to the Crown in 1760 negated its claim of sovereignty and negated government’s constitutional duty to consult.
Premier Stephen McNeil subsequently apologized to Mi’kmaq chiefs and distanced himself from the legal position, saying it doesn’t reflect the government’s view that it has a duty to consult on issues of importance to First Nations.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said he was disappointed the Justice Department hadn’t moved yet to withdraw the brief.
“The government ought to formally notify the court that the document they have before them which has been represented as the position of the Government of Nova Scotia … is not the position of the government,” said Burrill. “I think that should be made official and clear.”