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5982ICT: News from the North: A digest of First Nations news from Canada

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  • Ishgooda, Senior Staff
    May 27, 2004
      News from the North: A digest of First Nations news from Canada

      Posted: May 26, 2004 - 12:28pm EST
      by: Robert J. Taylor / Correspondent / Indian Country Today
      http://www.indiancountry.com/?1085588980

      Métis lawyer appointed to bench

      OTTAWA - Todd Duchame has become the first Métis lawyer appointed as judge in Canada.

      Duchame, a certified specialist in criminal law, was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Irwin Cotler officially on May 7. Métis National Council President Clem Chartier congratulated Duchame in a prepared statement on May 10 and described the appointment of a Métis as judge as "long overdue." The Métis Nation of Ontario president said the appointment was a reflection of Duchame’s personal ability and cause for "great celebration."

      "Justice Duchame is a role model for me and other young Métis lawyers, law students and youth considering a legal career," said General Council to the Métis Nation Jason Madden. "He stands as an example of the talent that lies within the Métis Nation to contribute to Canada’s legal profession. It is a proud day for us."

      Justice Duchame brings serious credentials to the bench according to information provided by the MNC. He holds advanced legal degrees from the law schools at the University of Toronto and Yale University. Duchame has also served as the clinic director for Aboriginal Legal Service of Toronto and currently serves as the director of Native Child and Family Service of Toronto.

      Supreme Court to hear Marshall appeal

      FREDERICTON, New Brunswick - The Supreme Court of Canada announced on May 3 it has agreed to hear an appeal of a key decision on Aboriginal treaty rights filed by the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

      The original decision by the high court involved the conviction of Stephen Marshall Jr. and over 30 other members of the Mi’kmaq tribe for illegally harvesting fish without a license off the Atlantic coast in 1999. The justices agreed with the defenses’ argument the First Nations fisherman were guaranteed the right to hunt and fish and to maintain a moderate living from doing so by 18th century treaties and dismissed the charges. Since the Marshall decision was handed down it has been used a precedent in several cases in both of the provinces by Aboriginals seeking to guarantee their treaty access to natural resources on territory controlled by the federal or provincial governments.

      The appeals filed by both provinces, to be heard sometime in 2005, are focused on logging cases. In the New Brunswick appeal, the province is seeking to reverse the overturning of the conviction of Joshua Bernard of the Eel Ground Reserve for harvesting 23 spruce logs from government land for sale in 2000. In the Nova Scotia appeal, the province is also seeking to return the conviction of 35 First Nations loggers for harvesting lumber for profit on government land. The provinces’ arguments are both based on the premise the Supreme Court erred in its earlier interpretation and no treaty rights exists allowing the First Nations to harvest trees on government land.

      An affirmation of the Marshall decision will obviously be good news for First Nations seeking to establish economic self-sufficiency, but a blow to the big business of commercial logging. Groups favoring overturning the Marshall decision have told the Canadian media that special access to natural resources based on race is discriminatory to non-Aboriginal loggers and fishermen. Surprisingly, some Aboriginal rights advocates are welcoming the appeal.

      "It means the Supreme Court, authors of the original Marshall decision, will get the opportunity to determine how to handle forests and trees," commented Bruce Wildsmith, a Native rights lawyer, to the Canadian Press news service on May 3.

      ©2004 Indian Country Today

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