The Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations are now legally permitted to move forward with a lawsuit against Rio Tinto Alcan.
The Supreme Court of Canada denied a leave to appeal to Rio Tinto Alcan and dismissed RTA’s application from an earlier B.C. court decision.
The matter has to do with the flow of water in the Nechako River due to RTA’S Kenney Dam.
This case is monumental as it now confirms that First Nations can sue industries or private companies for damaging land or interfering with use or occupancy of land and rivers.
Chief Archie Patrick was thrilled with the decision. “We’re pleased that the court recognised that such rights are under Canada’s constitution and that we have rights to access the courts just as much as non-First Nation landowners,” Patrick said.
Jackie Thomas, former Chief of the Saik’uz First Nation and named plaintiff, says that Alcan has been destroying the Nechako River and damaging fisheries since the 1950’s by diverting water out of the river.
“We’re pleased to finally have a victory in front of Canadian courts,” Thomas said.
Alcan has responded briefly to the decision.
“Rio Tinto acknowledges the Supreme Court’s decision. Rio Tinto strives to engage with aboriginal communities where it operates. As these matters are still before the courts, we will decline further comments at this time,” they said.