Canadian court backs foresters in dispute with aboriginal group

Canada's supreme court has said that local government can continue to award licenses to use native lands, despite objections by aboriginal people

An aboriginal group that challenged the power of local government to give companies licenses on traditional native land has had its request overturned by Canada’s Supreme Court.

The decision means that Goldcorp, a lumber company, and other companies like it will continue to be able to mine on land that was granted to them by local government.

The native group, known as Grassy Narrows First Nation, ceded the land under an agreement known as Treaty 3, which was signed in 1873. But they said that local government — in this case Ontario — should not be able to grant licenses to use the land for forestry, mining or others uses under that agreement.

Companies that use the land are said to have been nervous about the decision, after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of an aboriginal group in a similar case in late June. But that involved lands in which there was no treaty, and the 141 year old Treaty 3 includes clauses specifically relating to such lands.

The aboriginal group said that it would continue to fight the ruling and would seek to encourage Ontario to change its policies to support them. If the logging continues then the group could be unable to exercise its rights on the land, it said.

Treaties require that the government respect the harvesting rights of the aboriginal group on the land, according to a spokesperson for the group.

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