FROM THE ARCHIVE
Court rules Canada in breach to First Nation
Facebook Twitter Email
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2002

A federal court in Canada last week blasted the government's top Indian affairs official for meddling in the management of a financially strapped First Nation.

In April 2001, Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault appointed a third-party manager to take over federal funding and other programs for the Pikangikum First Nation. At the time, Nault said the arrangement was necessary to help the Ojibwe band, based in Ontario, resolve long-standing problems.

But in a ruling released December 2, Federal Justice John A. O'Keefe said Nault violated his responsibility to the First Nation. Calling it "patently unreasonable," the court invalidated the arrangement "due to a breach of the duty of procedural fairness."

The decision is a bittersweet victory for the Pikangikum. The remote community of 2,000 has been riddled with a number of environmental, financial and social problems, which band leaders said were exacerbated by last year's federal takeover.

A flood in October 2000 led to a state of emergency. Bottled water had to be flown in because there was no alternative source.

The reserve's school had to be closed earlier in the year due to an oil spill. Children went uneducated, according to Nault, until January 2001, when the school was finally reopened.

At one point, the band owed more than $300,000 in heating bills. Reserve residents were prepared to lose their utilities until the third-party manager paid the bill last summer.

But it's the high suicide rate that has probably drawn the most attention. Considered one of the highest in the world, the reserve's rate is 36 times the national average. At one point, Nault suggested the band's outreach to the media was leading to more suicides.

Despite the problems, band leaders insisted they should be able to handle their own affairs. They employed the services of a co-management firm up until Nault appointed the receiver.

According to court documents, the First Nation receives $12 million to $14 million in federal funds from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Audits during the late 1990s showed deficits in the millions but band leaders said they have cleared up the problems.

The Assembly of First Nations, the largest Aboriginal organization, supported the Pikangikum throughout the ordeal. A resolution accused the government of "usurping the authority" of the band.

Get the Decision:
Pikangikum First Nation v. Canada (2002 FCT 1246)

Relevant Documents:
STATEMENT BY ROBERT NAULT, MINISTER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT ON THE CURRENT SITUATION IN THE FIRST NATION COMMUNITY OF PIKANGIKUM (June 8, 2001)

Relevant Links:
Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca

Stay Connected
Contact
Search
Most Read
News Archive
2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

About This Page

You are enjoying stories from the Indianz.Com Archive, a collection dating back to 2000. Some outgoing links may no longer work due to age.

All stories are available for publishing via Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)