Blaze a trail to the Supreme Court with Beaver Lake Cree Nation.

Once upon a time, a band of visionaries joined forces to ride the rails across Canada. Comprising Indigenous chiefs, lawyers, activists and artists, the group made the cross-country train journey to protest the lack of recognition of Aboriginal rights in the repatriation of the Canadian constitution.

The Constitution Express became an international sensation, forcing the Liberal government — led by the first Prime Minister Trudeau — to recognize Aboriginal rights and enshrine Section 35 of the Constitution. Organizer Arthur Manuel called the odyssey “the most effective direct action in Canadian history.”

Section 35 — which recognizes and affirms the existing Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations — created hope for Indigenous communities that the courts would uphold their rights and advance an agenda that some now call ‘reconciliation’.

But:  this hard-fought constitutional protection is only meaningful if First Nations can afford to access the courts. 

Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s Advanced Cost Order, which we celebrated at the end of last year, was overturned in the Alberta Court of Appeal. Your donation to Beaver Lake Cree Nation means the Nation is headed to the Supreme Court, where they will be arguing that the appeal court ruling all but eliminates First Nations’ eligibility for this rare but important allocation. 

This precedent cannot stand. The decision to revoke funding for Beaver Lake Cree slams closed the door for Indigenous Nations who can’t afford to bring corporations and governments to justice. It is a massive setback to reconciliation: that’s why the Beaver Lake Cree asked leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court has granted leave, and Beaver Lake Cree’s case will be heard on November 4.

The costly demands placed on First Nations to vindicate their constitutional rights in court clash with a painful reality – First Nations are amongst the poorest people in Canada. Amidst that poverty, Indigenous governments are responsible for ensuring their communities endure and thrive over many generations. Yet, a community cannot survive if its members are destitute or its lands despoiled.

It’s not fair that Nations such as Beaver Lake Cree should be expected to draw from scarce community resources to stand up to deep-pocketed governments and corporations – all to uphold rights that are guaranteed in Treaties and in the Constitution.

The decision Beaver Lake Cree Nation is appealing threatens to undermine everything that Art Manuel and the engineers of the Constitution Express achieved. We must support this effort to overturn it: donate to Beaver Lake Cree’s Supreme Court appeal today. We are so grateful for your support: thanks to your donation to Beaver Lake Cree Nation, they are heading to the Supreme Court well-equipped to fight, and to win.

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