Algonquin harvesting case

R v Côté 

Year: 1996

Court: Supreme Court of Canada

Citation: [1996] 3 S.C.R. 139

Location: QC

TAGS: Aboriginal Rights; Fishing Rights

Claims for Aboriginal rights can be made independently from claims for Aboriginal Title. Claims for Aboriginal rights can be made in every Canadian jurisdiction. 


Five members of the Algonquin people, including Côté, were convicted of entering a controlled harvest zone in the Outaouais region of Quebec without paying the motor vehicle access fee. They entered the zone to teach student traditional hunting and fishing practices. Côté was also convicted of fishing within the zone without a license. Côté and the other members argue that the regulations under which they were convicted breached their Aboriginal rights under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 recognizes and affirms existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada found that Côté and the others demonstrated that they have an Aboriginal right to fish for food in that zone and that they were exercising this right for the purpose of teaching younger members traditional Algonquin fishing practices. The Supreme Court of Canada held that federal licensing regulation was an unjustified infringement of this right while provincial motor vehicle access fee regulation was not an infringement.  

Why this Case Matters:

R v Côté is a case regarding a claim for Aboriginal rights. It applies the Van der Peet and Sparrow tests. R v Côté stands for the principles that Aboriginal rights may exist independently of Aboriginal title, that claims for Aboriginal rights can be made across Canada despite different legal regime of British and French colonizers, and that under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 both federal and provincial laws are subject to the same standard of constitutional scrutiny. 

Supreme Court Judgment:

CanLII – R. v. Côté, 1996 CanLII 170 (SCC), [1996] 3 SCR 139

Go Deeper: 

First Peoples Law – Preparing an Aboriginal Rights Case: An Overview for Defence Counsel

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