APTN National News
OTTAWA–The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled against a British Columbia First Nation seeking to affirm an Aboriginal right to harvest fish, seaweed and shellfish from their traditional territory.
The high court ruled that the Lax Kw’alaams, a First Nation in the Prince Rupert region of B.C., could not claim an Aboriginal right to a commercial fishery because they did not engage in wide-spread trade before contact.
The court found that the Lax Kw’alaams were not a “trading people” that only engaged in the trade of eulachon fish oil.
“Such sporadic trade as took place in other fish products was peripheral to the pre-contact society and did not define what made pre-contact society what it was,” the court ruled. “The attempt to build a modern commercial fishery on the narrow support of a limited ancestral trade…lacks sufficient continuity and proportionality…the claim in this case to a general commercial fishery would create a right qualitatively and quantitatively different from the pre-contact trade in eulachon grease.”
The Supreme Court decision upheld previous lower court rulings in B.C. that the Lax Kw’alaams had appealed.
The Lax Kw’alaams argued that under the 1999 Marshall decision, they had a right to a commercial fishery to support their community.