Tomorrow and Wednesday, the Federal Court will hear a case by Sierra Legal Defence Fund on behalf of the Labrador Métis Nation (LMN). Sierra Legal’s goal is to preserve the Nation’s rights by arguing fish bearing rivers of Labrador in LMN should be adequately protected during the continued construction and operation of the Trans-Labrador Highway.
Construction of the Trans-Labrador Highway has taken place since 2002. Members of the LMN contend the design and construction of causeways, combined with bridges and culverts, have resulted in extensive destruction of fish habitat and obstruction of fish bearing rivers and streams.
“Proper management of the Labrador fisheries is integral to the LMN’s traditional values,” said Greg Mitchell, Environmental Advisor with the LMN. “At the very least, the government could have sat down with us and discussed our concerns over why these rivers are so important to the members of the Labrador Métis Nation.”
In order to address Labrador Métis Nation concerns and, as a last resort, private prosecutions were brought under the Federal Fisheries Act in the fall of 2003 by an LMN member against the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for allowing the destruction of fish habitat and the blockage of salmon bearing rivers by the building of causeways and bridges between Red Bay and Cartwright on the Paradise and St. Lewis Rivers.
“The Attorney General of Canada stepped in and stayed the prosecutions in 2004 without even consulting with members of the LMN,” said Sierra Legal Lawyer Robert Wright. “Even if the Attorney General wasn’t prepared to carry the prosecutions, he had the option to let the LMN bring the prosecutions on its own and have its day in Court.”
The Labrador Métis Nation will argue the prosecutions should not have been stayed as they are in the public interest and there is sufficient evidence to support the prosecutions.