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SCC decision highlights nature of Indigenous title to property – Indigenous Law Insights April 2022 (webinar)

Author(s): Richard J. King, Alexandre Fallon, Marleigh Dick

Apr 26, 2022

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in Newfoundland and Labrador (Attorney General) v. Uashaunnuat (Innu of Uashat and of Mani-Utenam), 2020 SCC4 has important implications for the courts’ understanding of the nature of Indigenous title to property. This was a key point discussed during Osler’s monthly Indigenous Law Insights webinar series, hosted by Richard King, partner, Regulatory, Indigenous and Environmental Group, with presenters Alexandre Fallon, partner, Litigation, and Marleigh Dick, associate, Litigation.

In 2013, the Innu filed suit against two mining companies in the Superior Court of Québec seeking  damages and a declaration that the project infringed Indigenous title and other Indigenous rights. The mining companies filed a motion arguing that Québec courts did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate these claims, but rather it should be adjudicated by the Newfoundland and Labrador courts where the vast project lands also spanned. The SCC majority decision held that Indigenous title was not a real right and, accordingly, Québec courts had jurisdiction to decide all the Innu’s claims. This decision has potential implications not only for Indigenous rights claims crossing provincial boundaries, but also national boundaries.

The webinar also featured a discussion about British Columbia’s recently announced action plan in support of its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act passed in 2019. The actions center around self-determination and the inherent right of self-government; titles and rights of Indigenous Peoples; ending Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination; and social, cultural and economic well-being. B.C.’s action plan may provide some insight into how the federal government will approach its plan which is expected within the next two years.

View the full April 2022 webinar