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Judicial review begins in case against Mount Carleton snowmobile trail project

The provincial government is asking a judge to dismiss a judicial review of its plan to groom snowmobile trails in Mount Carleton Provincial Park, but the Indigenous and environmental groups against the project say they have every right to object.

Ron Tremblay, chief of the Maliseet Grand Council, submitted an affidavit against the Mount Carleton snowmobile trail-grooming project. He says the province didn’t consult with the council and doesn’t respect that the provincial park is sacred ground for the Wolastoqiyik people. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

The provincial government is asking a judge to dismiss a judicial review of its plan to groom snowmobile trails in Mount Carleton Provincial Park, but the Indigenous and environmental groups against the project say they have every right to object.

Monday marked the first day of the review requested by the Maliseet Grand Council and former park manager Jean-Louis Deveau. The groups are fighting the government’s plan to open Mount Carleton Provincial Park to hundreds of new snowmobilers.

In a July 2015 announcement, the Liberals, who were in power at the time, promised a $1.4 million snowmobile trail-grooming hub with 343 kilometres of new or re-groomed trails, plus a fuelling station.

On Monday, William Gould, the lawyer for the Progressive Conservative government in charge now, said the judge should dismiss the case and award the province $5,000. He argued the council is not a recognized Indigenous group and the province had no duty to consult with it.

“An established collective is necessary for there to be a consultation duty,” Gould said. 

However, he admitted the province’s consultation with “recognized” First Nations was flawed as well. Consultations weren’t done with Kingsclear First Nation until months after the project was approved and after the province had awarded tenders.

“It is not a proper way to consult,” Gould told the court.

‘Still in the box’

The grand council is a traditional governance body that is not recognized by the Indian Act as bands and councils are, Gould said.

Traditional Grand Chief Ron Tremblay, who asked for the judicial review, was in court Monday and shook his head multiple times at Gould’s assertions. In his submissions to the court he referred to the Indian Act as a colonial document that doesn’t fully reflect how Indigenous people govern themselves.  

In his reply to Gould, council lawyer Gordon Allen accused the provincial government of having archaic ideas about Indigenous governance and traditional leadership.

 

Before saying a word to the court, he stood up and stepped into a plastic file box near his table.

He declared the province is “still in the box” when it comes to understanding who should have been consulted before the project was approved.

Gordon Allen is the lawyer representing environmental and Indigenous groups against the Mount Carleton project. He said the province is contravening a treaty from 1725 by not respecting the importance of the provincial park as a sacred ground for the Wolastoqiyik. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

He said it would be “intellectually … a fraud” to believe bands elected under the Indian Act are the only ones that have a right to be consulted.

The lawyer alleged the Mount Carleton project contravenes a treaty from 1725 that preserves the rights of Indigenous people and the importance of their relationship to nature. 

Mount Carleton Provincial Park is one of the last wilderness parks in the region. It’s considered sacred ground by the Wolastoq people.

“It’s the 21st century now and it’s time to consider these rights,” said the council’s lawyer.

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