Oil exploration blocked in Supreme Court ruling on Indigenous rights

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Ottawa – The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled unanimously in favour of the Inuit hamlet of Clyde River in its case to stop oil exploration in the Canadian Arctic.

This landmark ruling will have far-reaching impacts in terms of strengthening Indigenous rights around resource extraction projects, giving this David vs. Goliath battle an ending of national significance.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that while the National Energy Board (NEB) process can be a vehicle for consultation for the Crown to act and can determine whether the Crown’s duty to Consult has been fulfilled, the Crown’s duty was not fulfilled in this case. When the NEB fails to fulfill its duty, the NEB must withhold project approval.

In this case, the court found that the consultation and accommodation efforts were inadequate and fell short in several respects including the failure to engage in deep consultation.

“I’m truly grateful to the Supreme Court for this ruling, which protects my community and the marine animals on which we depend from seismic blasting,” says Jerry Natanine, a community leader and former mayor of Clyde River. “This ruling will also help protect Indigenous rights and voices, and hopefully shield others from what we’ve been through. Like all people, we want economic opportunities to flow into our communities. But we know that we are part of the land, and an economy that destroys the earth destroys ourselves.”

Nader Hasan, Clyde River’s legal counsel, added: “The court’s decision is truly groundbreaking for Clyde River and for Indigenous rights across Canada. It took the highest Court in the land to remind the Government of Canada once again that consultation with Indigenous peoples must be meaningful.”

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