West Moberly First Nations

March 23, 2010 16:13 ET

West Moberly First Nations: Court Orders BC Government to Protect Threatened Caribou

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - March 23, 2010) - On March 19, 2010, the BC Supreme Court released its decision relating to West Moberly First Nations' petition to stop the plans of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and First Coal Corporation to develop a coal mine that would destroy critical habitat of the Burnt Pine Caribou Herd in northeast BC. 

"I'm elated," said Chief Roland Willson regarding his community's landmark court case. "After nearly three years of the Government of Canada and the province of British Columbia dodging their legal obligations under the Species at Risk Act to protect caribou, this decision compels them to do so immediately. It's a big win for the caribou, my community, and all Canadians interested in the preservation of wildlife." 

The government cannot ignore cumulative impacts to the environment when making decisions relating to additional development. All impacts must be taken into consideration, as the Crown is duty-bound to sustainably manage natural resources so that species such as caribou are available for future generations for all Canadians. Justice Williamson stated that: "a balancing of the treaty rights of Native people with rights of the public generally, including the development of resources for the benefit of the community as a whole, is not achieved if caribou herds...are extirpated."

Justice Williamson held that: "the consultation was not sufficiently meaningful, and the accommodation put in place was not reasonable." He concluded that BC "should proceed expeditiously" to develop and implement a "plan for the protection and augmentation" of the Burnt Pine Caribou Herd, which incorporates "the views of West Moberly" and those of the scientists. 

According to Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law, "it may be the first time in Canada that Aboriginal and Treaty rights have been used to force the government to protect a threatened species. From now on, if the government fails to develop plans to protect endangered species, they'll know that a First Nation might take them to court to implement recovery plans in other places and for other species."

"The court has reaffirmed that Treaty No. 8 is a framework for the future," said Chief Willson. "We are looking forward to working with the government during the coming months in order to develop a plan that protects the caribou and our way of life." 

Contact Information

  • West Moberly First Nations
    Chief Roland Willson
    (250) 783-0733