Lametti, opposition parties pledge to uphold Wilson-Raybould’s new rules for defending Indigenous lawsuits

Former PCO clerk Michael Wernick warned that the former justice minister’s directive could ‘gutted at the stroke of a pen.’

Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, left, issued formal guidelines for lawyers defending the government against lawsuits from First Nations before she was shuffled out of the Justice minister role in January; new Justice Minister David Lametti, Conservative Justice critic Lisa Raitt, and deputy NDP justice critic Murray Rankin have all endorsed those guidelines. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade

Attorney General David Lametti and the opposition justice critics say they will stand behind former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s instructions to government lawyers, telling them to give fair treatment to First Nations suing the government over treaty rights, after departing PCO clerk Michael Wernick warned Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s instructions could be “gutted” by a new government or attorney general.

Two Canadian lawyers who represent First Nations in treaty cases say the directive was a step toward reconciliation, but only has as much strength as the government of the day gives to it.

“It’s not legislation,” said Kate Gunn, a lawyer with First Peoples Law in B.C. “A lot of it depends on the extent to which government, the bureaucrats are committed to pushing for it to be fulfilled.”

Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s directive included 20 guidelines for the government and its lawyers as they deal with litigation over treaty rights with Indigenous peoples. The guidelines say that government lawyers should not object to First Nations’ claims of historical use of a territory when there are “no conflicting interests” involved; that oral history should be treated respectfully as evidence; that the government should try to settle disputes out of court; and more.

Government lawyers have for years fought back against lawsuits from Indigenous people and First Nations by using “delay tactics” in court that make fighting the cases too expensive for the First Nation or Indigenous group behind the suit, said Scott Robertson, a lawyer with Nahwegahbow Corbiere Genoodmagejiig Barristers & Solicitors and the president of the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada.

Those tactics have included challenging First Nations’ sovereignty over the lands they had long occupied, he said. MORE

How This B.C. Activist Became The Oil Industry’s Number One Enemy

Tzeporah Berman has been instrumental in delaying or stopping 21 oil projects. Her next target: the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Tzeporah Berman Ms Chatelaine sits on a log by the ocean, looking out across the beach
Photo, Johann Wall.

Last December, environmental activist Tzeporah Berman joined thousands of activists, scientists, policy makers and industry reps in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference. She was scheduled to present a comprehensive analysis of the increase in Canada’s oil and gas emissions. Berman has been to many such gatherings, but Katowice, located in the heart of Poland’s coal country, provided a particularly bitter lesson in the contradictory nature of climate change talks. “I would leave my hotel and walk through coal-choked streets, coughing, to get to the climate negotiations,” she says.

Once there, the irony only deepened: While Berman listened to the world’s experts on renewables talk breathlessly about price drops and leaps in technology, in the room next door, Canadian government representatives cozied up to execs from Suncor. The next day, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its grim Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C. “I’d never seen scientists like that before,” she says, “near tears, frantic and scared, saying it’s worse than we thought.”

Since she was 23, when she first helped coordinate logging protests in B.C.’s Clayoquot Sound, Berman’s mission has been to bring together political enemies (those experts and Suncor execs). In 1993, during what was dubbed “The War in the Woods,” she famously organized blockades that got her arrested and charged with 857 counts of criminal aiding and abetting (the charges were ultimately stayed). Her determination, along with testy negotiations between environmental groups, logging companies and First Nations, ultimately protected the majority of the Sound’s remaining rainforest.

In the decades that followed, Berman became known as one of the country’s most formidable environmentalists, with a reputation as a passionate but pragmatic deal maker who could nimbly balance the needs of industry, the desires of politicians and the health of the planet. MORE