Canada: Does Every Resource Permit Trigger A Duty To Consult?

Are Crown consultations with First Nations are required in all circumstances where the Crown issues a resource-related permit? There is some guidance to be found in the March, 2014 decision of Justice Currie of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench in Buffalo River Dene Nation v. The Minister of Energy and Resources.

In 2012, the Ministry held a sealed-bid auctioned of oil sands exploration permits. Two Oil Sands Special Exploratory Permits were issued to a successful bidder for Crown land within the area covered by Treaty 10, to which the Buffalo River Dene Nation is a party.

The Minister had not consulted with the Buffalo River Dene before conducting the sale or before issuing the permits. Believing that there was a consultation duty owed to them, the Buffalo River Dene brought a court application challenging the process and the permits.

In its decision the Court focusses on whether issuing the permits had the potential to adversely affect an Aboriginal right or claim and also on whether the decision to have the sale of exploration permits constituted a type of "strategic, higher-level decision" that may have an impact on Aboriginal claims and rights. If either characterization applied, then the government decision might trigger the prior duty to consult.

The Judge looked closely at the rights granted under the Special Exploratory Permit. He noted that the underlying legislation specifically provided that neither the permit, nor any other Crown disposition of minerals, actually authorized the holder to enter on or use the surface of the Crown mineral lands. That required, at minimum, a further authorization from Saskatchewan Environment. The permits themselves contain a statement that reiterated that they did not include any right to enter or use the surface of the Crown mineral lands. The Court therefore characterized the permit as providing a bare right of exploration only and that other steps would have to be taken to secure entry for that purpose.

The Minister presented evidence from the Ministry of Environment that the additional permits required to access exploration lands were not automatically granted by that department. A separate application was required, and that application could trigger a consultation process.

The Buffalo River Dene pointed out that the regulations required the Special Exploratory Permit-holder to drill at least one well and conduct a certain dollar value of work annually in order to maintain the validity of the permit. They argued that those activities were potentially disruptive to hunting and fishing and damaging to the land itself. The Court pointed out, however, that further steps and approvals would be necessary before the permit-holder could carry out any of these activities. The Court noted, based on the evidence, that it was also fairly common for permit-holders to not to do any work in their permit areas for economic reasons, and to simply let the permits expire.

Although the Court commented on the subject, it did not make any specific finding as to whether Crown consultation with the Buffalo River Dene would be required when the additional approvals were applied for.

The Court also considered whether the decision to hold the permit sale required consultation with the First Nation. The Buffalo River Dene argued that the decision to offer the Special Exploratory Permits was a strategic, higher-level planning decision that would irrevocably set a pattern of development that would affect their Aboriginal rights. Based on the evidence that permits sales were routinely conducted whenever exploration rights were requested, the Court held that the decision to hold the permit sale was purely administrative. It was performed with little information and that there was no long-term planning involved or resulting from the process. It was the Court's opinion that the decision to sell the permits was not a long-term planning decision that triggered a duty of consultation.

What does this mean for resource developers? Well first, it focuses attention on the need to consider whether and when a government decision may adversely affect an Aboriginal right or claim and require consultation. In this case, a right to explore that did not also give any rights of access was found not to have any potential impacts. Focus on what is authorized by the approval and whether this can give rise to an adverse impact on Aboriginal rights or claims. Second, it confirms that not all government decisions are "strategic", "higher-level" or of a long-term nature that would potentially affect Aboriginal rights or claims and therefore trigger a duty to consult.

If, at the end of the day, seeking, obtaining and acting upon the series of permits and approvals necessary to operate a project or development will have the potential effect of impacting Aboriginal rights or claims, then a duty of consultation will definitely be triggered at some point. The triggering event will be the application for the licence and approval that, if issued, will permit the holder to carryout activities that may impact those rights or claims.

Until there is more judicial guidance developers may wish to encourage government to carry out some level of consultation as a preventative measure in order to avoid the prospect of litigation. Although the Minister was found to have acted appropriately in this case, the disagreement with the Buffalo River Dene cast a cloud over the validity of the permits until the Court made its decision.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.