UPDATE 1-Canada court rules against aboriginal group on forestry licenses

Fri Jul 11, 2014 11:22am EDT
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(Adds background, the court's reasoning, and reaction)

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, July 11 (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada backed the right of the province of Ontario to grant forestry licenses on a tract of traditional native land on Friday after an aboriginal challenge of licenses that had been granted to a lumber company.

It was a decision that had positive implications for the ability of Goldcorp Inc and other companies to continue to mine on land that natives had ceded to Canada under treaty. Goldcorp operates Canada's largest gold mine in the same region as the tract in the forestry dispute, and had intervened in the court case.

It dealt with a large tract in northern Ontario that natives ceded under what became known as Treaty 3. The license in the case had been granted to a predecessor of Resolute Forest Products Inc.

The aboriginals, known as the Grassy Narrows First Nation, had contested the right of Ontario alone to grant licenses, arguing the federal government should also be involved.

Under the treaty, the government was given the right to "take up" land for forestry, mining and other uses and the natives retained the right to hunt and fish in those lands at least until that time.

"Federal supervision is not required by the Constitution," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the decision.

Resource companies had nervously watched this decision after the Supreme Court came down in favor of British Columbia aboriginal groups in a ruling on June 26 on a land claims case in which natives also had sought to block forestry.   Continued...