Canadian Constitution architecture dramatically altered following Quebec Appeal Court decision, according to experts

The architecture of the Canadian Constitution has been dramatically altered, with the emergence of a third level of government, after the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that Indigenous people possess an existing right of self-government that is protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, according to legal experts.

The “bold” decision, a reference case brought by the Attorney General of Québec after it challenged the constitutionality of the federal government’s Indigenous child welfare law, marks the first time a self-government right has been clearly recognized by the courts as a right of all Indigenous peoples in Canada, added aboriginal and constitutional legal experts.

“The Court recognized that Indigenous peoples in Canada have a right to self-government over child and family services recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982,” said Claire Truesdale, a Vancouver lawyer with JFK Law Corporation who practices Aboriginal, environmental and constitutional law. “This is remarkable.”

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First Nations can now pursue claims prior to proving Aboriginal rights and title

First Nations can now bring tort claims founded on Aboriginal rights and title before those rights are formally recognized by a court declaration or government agreement after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to end lawsuits by Aboriginal communities against natural resource companies.

The SCC’s decision to dismiss the applications for leave to appeal paves the way for a $900 million class action filed by two Quebec Innu First Nations against Iron Ore Co. of Canada (IOC) and a separate suit by two north-central British Columbia First Nations against Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. over its diversion of water from the Nechako River since the 1950s.

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