Union of BC Indian Chiefs Celebrates Victory of Morton v. B.C.

Press Release
January 28, 2010
(Vancouver BC, January 28, 2010) In this week’s B.C. Supreme Court decision Morton v. British Columbia, Justice Hinkson granted the federal government’s request for an extension to implement aquaculture legislation and placed restrictions on the province’s ability to issue new or expand existing aquaculture tenures.

On behalf of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip expressed support for the restrictions noting “Experience shows that once third party interests are granted or expanded, they tend to be protected at the expense of biodiversity and the constitutionally protected rights of Indigenous Peoples. With this decision, the court cautions against provincial approaches in industries such as aquaculture, and arguably forestry, mining or energy, without prudent consideration of our Aboriginal Title or the ecological values that are increasingly important to the general public.”

In February 2009, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Hinkson granted a declaration sought by biologist Alexandra Morton and other petitioners, that provincial control of the aquaculture industry is unconstitutional. Justice Hinkson ruled that the Province has no jurisdiction to regulate fish farms, and he gave the federal government one year to assume regulation and management over the industry.

This week’s decision is based on proceedings in December 2009 where the Government of Canada sought a further one-year extension to develop and pass aquaculture legislation. The Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk Tribal Council (MTTC) successfully applied for intervener status, arguing that their collective reliance on the Broughton Archipelago fishery and the impacts of aquaculture necessitated they be meaningfully consulted and involved in decisions concerning the fishery. In support of the MTTC application, the UBCIC filed an affidavit outlining the collective Indigenous interest in the fishery and the impacts of provincial resource management schemes which place a higher emphasis on economic interests at the expense of constitutionally protected Aboriginal Rights and of ecological values.

Grand Chief Phillip concluded “The Union of BC Indian Chiefs will continue to fully support any and all Indigenous communities who choose to pursue all available steps to ensure that their rights are recognized, respected and protected.”

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Media inquires:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.