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Judge rejects B.C. First Nation’s challenge to Canada-China trade deal

Chief Judith Sayers of Hupacasath First Nations is photographed on the Musqueam Indian Reserve in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, January 17, 2013.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

A federal court judge has dismissed a B.C. First Nation's court challenge to a Canada-China trade agreement, saying the potential adverse effects the band cites in its application are "speculative" in nature.

The Hupacasath First Nation – which numbers about 300 people, most of whom live on two reserves near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island – last year applied for judicial review of a trade deal between Canada and China that was signed in September, 2012.

The court challenge had delayed ratification of the deal, which Canada had sought for more than a decade.

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In its court challenge, the Hupacasath argued the federal government had an obligation to consult First Nations, including the Hupacasath, before ratifying the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People's Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments.

The Hupacasath also raised other issues, including concerns that potential resource disputes between the band and companies backed by Chinese investors would be subject to international trade law rather than Canadian constitutional law, which the Hupacasath consider stronger protection.

In his Aug. 26 judgment, Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton found potential adverse effects that the Hupacasath cited were speculative and that ratification of the deal without consulting the band "would not contravene the principle of the honour of the Crown or Canada's duty to consult [the band] before taking any action that may adversely impact upon its asserted Aboriginal rights."

The Hupacasath are at the fourth stage of a six-stage treaty process in B.C. The group has claimed rights and title to about 232,000 hectares on central Vancouver Island.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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