Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests)
Court: Supreme Court of Canada
Citation: 2004 SCC 73
TAGS: Duty to Consult; Aboriginal Title; Natural Resources; Forestry
The Crown has a duty to consult and, if appropriate, accommodate Indigenous peoples even when Aboriginal title has not been proved.
The Haida Nation was involved in an Aboriginal title claim to the islands of Haida Gwaii (a.k.a. Queen Charlotte Islands). The government of British Columbia, through the Ministry of Forests, granted, transferred and replaced tree farm licenses on Haida Gwaii pursuant to the Forest Act (R.S.B.C. 1996, c.157). In 1999, the Minister approved the transfer of tree farm license 39 to Weyerhaeuser Company Limited. The Haida Nation argued that without consultation and accommodation, by the time they win their title case, their land will be stripped of the “forests that are vital to their economy and their culture” (para.7).
The Supreme Court of Canada held that Government of British Columbia has a legal duty to consult and, if appropriate accommodate. This duty could not be fulfilled through delegation to Weyerhaeuser Company Limited. Weyerhaeuser Company Limited was held not to have a duty to consult or accommodate; however, it could become liable for assumed obligations to consult and, if appropriate accommodate.
Why this Case Matters:
Haida Nation v British Columbia established the framework for the legal duty of federal and provincial governments to consult and, if appropriate, accommodate Indigenous peoples for decisions that affect non-proven Aboriginal title.
The Supreme Court of Canada held in Haida Nation v British Columbia that good faith consultation could lead to an obligation to accommodate. The Court also held that consultation must be meaningful. However, meaningful consultation does not create an obligation to reach agreement. The government’s duty to consult is grounded in the honour of the Crown.
Supreme Court Judgment:
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (now Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada) – Aboriginal Consultation and Accommodation – Updated Guidelines for Federal Officials to Fulfill the Duty to Consult – March 2011
First Peoples Law – Duty to Consult