The Nunavut Court of Appeal has dismissed the federal government's second bid to add the Nunavut government as a co-defendant in the $1-billion lawsuit filed by Inuit land-claim organization Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI).
NTI launched the breach-of-contract lawsuit against the federal government in 2006, claiming that Ottawa has not fully implemented the 1993 Nunavut Land Claims Agreement that led to the creation of Nunavut six years later.
Federal lawyers then went to court to add the territorial government as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, arguing that both the territorial and federal governments share responsibility for Nunavut's land claims.
Had that bid succeeded, Nunavut Tunngavik would have had to sue the territorial government as well as the federal government — something NTI has said it does not want to do.
The Court of Appeal upheld an April 2008 ruling by Nunavut Supreme Court Justice Earl Johnson that the federal government could add the Nunavut government as a third party, not a co-defendant, in the lawsuit.
In its written decision, dated June 2, the three justices on the Appeal Court panel said there are few differences between being a defendant and being a third party.
But Nunavut Tunngavik could not seek any relief against the Nunavut government as a third party.
The federal government can seek relief against the territorial government, if it chooses to do so, according to the ruling.
"There are advantages to having the government of Nunavut added as a defendant, and other advantages to having it added as a third party. The decision of the chambers judge to select the latter solution discloses no error of principle, and is not unreasonable," the Court of Appeal decision stated in part.
"No injustice will accrue to Canada, and the government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik will be bound by the decision of the trial court. The appeal should accordingly be dismissed."