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Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling involving an Alberta First Nation has made it easier for Indigenous communities to obtain court-ordered subsidies to pay for legal challenges against the government.

The court ruled 9-0 that even though the Beaver Lake Cree Nation has millions of dollars at its disposable and more than a dozen active oil wells on its territory, it can still argue that it needs financial help because those resources need to be spent on other pressing needs. The ruling cited the need for “mutual respect and reconciliation.”

The Globe’s Sean Fine reports that the ruling sets a precedent that First Nations have a right to determine their own spending priorities and establishes principles for deciding such cases. In its ruling, issued last Friday, the court says First Nations can argue that they must spend their money on pressing needs such as housing, safe water and education and, because of that, cannot afford to fund a costly legal challenge.

Beaver Lake Cree Nation, a community of 450 residents located more than 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, filed a lawsuit against the Alberta and federal governments in 2008, alleging that the province violated its treaty rights by allowing its lands to be used for resource and industrial development. That activity, Beaver Lake argued, compromised its traditional way of life.

The case won’t reach trial until 2024 and Beaver Lake estimates its legal costs will amount to $5-million.

The Supreme Court stopped short of awarding the Beaver Lake Cree Nation advanced costs to fund its lawsuit. Rather, the court sent the matter back to a lower court to determine that issue.

The court said judges should award advanced costs in only “rare and exceptional” cases, but that they must take into account the context in which First Nations are making decisions about where to spend their money.

“Reconciliation requires a court to consider the pressing needs of a First Nation government applicant from its perspective as a government that sets its own priorities and is best situated to identify its needs,” Justice Russell Brown of Alberta and Justice Andromache Karakatsanis of Ontario wrote for the court.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.