Court Of Appeal Approves First Nation Lawsuit Against Rio Tinto Alcan
Prince George, BC – The BC Court of Appeal has decided that two BC First Nations can continue their legal action against Rio Tinto Alcan with respect to the Kenney Dam and Alcan Reservoir…
The Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations are the holders of aboriginal title along the Nechako River, downstream of the dam. Their legal action claimed that Rio Tinto Alcan’s operation of the dam and reservoir, and the diversion of water from the Nechako River since the 1950s, are causing significant impacts to the Nechako fisheries and harming aboriginal rights and title.
The lawsuit also argued that the 1987 and 1997 Settlement Agreements reached between Alcan and both levels of government are not defenses against the First Nations, based on constitutional grounds. The Court agreed these arguments are valid.
“This is a significant decision in aboriginal law,” said Gregory McDade, legal Counsel for the Saik’uz and Stellat’en. “It recognizes that First Nations have existing legal rights that are subject to protection now, and that third party industrial interests must respect those rights.”
Saik’uz First Nation Chief, Stan Thomas, said, “We are very pleased with the Court’s decision. We intend to pursue our action for an injunction to protect the Nechako River, our fisheries and our way of life.”