On June 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada refused leave to appeal in the cases of Chief John Ermineskin, et al v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, et al ("Chief John Ermineskin"), Chief Victor Buffalo et al v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, et al. ("Chief Victor Buffalo"), and Chief Ronald Michel et al. v. Attorney General of Canada et al. ("Chief Ronald Michel").
Chief John Ermineskin and Chief Victor Buffalo were both the result of applicant First Nations surrendering their mineral interests in their reserve to the Crown in 1946. Both instances of surrender permitted the Crown to grant leases to oil and gas companies, who then paid royalties to the Crown in trust for the First Nations. In 1973, Canada developed a national strategy to deal with rapidly rising international oil prices. In 1989 and 1992 respectively, each of the First Nations brought an action in Federal Court asserting a number of claims against Canada arising from Canada's national energy strategy including an allegation that the regulated price regime constituted a breach of the Crown's trust and fiduciary duties as well as infringements of treaty rights and obligations.
Chief Ronald Michel arose when plaintiffs Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation et al., commenced an action against Canada, Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Power Corporation, seeking declarations and damages for breach of the honour of the Crown, breach of fiduciary duties, and trespass. Each of these claims emanated from the 1940 construction and continued operation of a hydro-electric dam.
In all three cases, the Crown Defendants brought a motion for summary judgement seeking the dismissal of the claims as being time-barred by applicable statutory limitation periods. In each case, the Court of Appeal decision found that the statutory limitations applied and that summary judgement should be granted. These decisions confirm that limitation periods are applicable to Aboriginal claims, including those based on infringements of treaty rights.
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