Supreme Court to hear historic Indigenous rights case tomorrow

Released  29 November 2016 9:00 AM ET Clyde River Solidarity Network 1

29 November 2016 (Ottawa) – Canada’s highest court will hear a defining case on Indigenous rights tomorrow when the Inuit community of Clyde River argues against the controversial
approval of a five-year seismic testing project off the coast of their Baffin Island home.

Jerry Natanine, former mayor of Clyde River, said “I’m grateful for this opportunity to have our voices heard before the Supreme Court today to show that this is truly a fight for our way of life. Inuit were not adequately consulted and do not consent to seismic testing in our waters.”

Natanine is an appellant in the case along with the Hamlet of Clyde River and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization, and has been fighting the project in court since 2014.  “Our traditional knowledge and scientific evidence shows that it is destructive to the health, even the lives, of marine mammals, which puts Inuit hunting and our right to feed our families at risk for generations to come. We’re hopeful that this case will see Indigenous Peoples’ rights under Canadian and international law honoured,” he remarked.
In June 2014, the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) approved plans to explore for oil and gas off the coast of Baffin Island using extremely loud blasts of sound to map the seafloor. The testing has been opposed by Inuit organizations which sought further study of the impact onmarine animals vital to Inuit culture and economy.
The legal challenge argues that the public engagement undertaken by the project proponents was inadequate to protect Inuit rights under the Canadian Constitution and international human rights law such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The legal challenge also argues that the process by which the seismic testing proposal was brought forward and approved failed to provide adequate opportunity for Inuit community members to participate in their own language and to apply their own knowledge of the local environment.
Clyde River’s case will be heard alongside a parallel challenge to the NEB’s decision-making process initiated by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. The Chippewas of the Thames oppose the use of the Line 9 pipeline to transport oilsands crude across their traditional territory.
“These cases are of tremendous national importance. This is a watershed moment for Canada. The Supreme Court will decide whether Government and industry proponents must take
Indigenous rights seriously, and what level of engagement is necessary before extraction projects are approved. These are fundamental questions in the journey toward reconciliation,” said Nader Hasan, legal counsel for Clyde River.

1 The Clyde River Solidarity Network includes Amnesty International Canada, Council of Canadians, Greenpeace Canada, Idle No More, and Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.
Community members and Mr. Hasan will be available to speak to media during the Court’s lunch recess tomorrow. A solidarity rally for the communities will be held at 8:00AM and 12:00PM outside the Court, to which media is also invited.

For more information, and to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jesse Firempong, communications officer on behalf of the Clyde River Solidarity Network,
778-996-6549 (mobile)
Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, Amnesty International  416-363-9933 ext 332
See Additional information:
Backgrounder on the legal case