Nfld. & Labrador

Court sides with Métis in Trans-Labrador Highway dispute

The Labrador Métis Nation and the provincial government are still assessing the impact of a court ruling this week that the province should have better consulted the group over highway construction.

The Labrador Métis Nation and the provincial government are still assessing the impact of a court ruling this week that the province should have better consulted the group over highway construction.

Some Métis say the decision strengthens their role as a major aboriginal player in Labrador, while the province's minister responsible for aboriginal affairs said he doubts itsets a precedent for future developments in the north.

In October, the Labrador Métis Nation went to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland with a claim that the group was not properly consulted about plans to build a portion of the Trans-Labrador Highway south of the Mealy Mountains

The Métis said they have recognized hunting, fishing and forestry rights in the area and the province was wrong to issue permits for the work without their approval.

This week, Justice Robert Fowler agreed that the province should have better consulted the Métis about highway construction plans.

Fowler also ordered the province to hand over information about the project to the Métis, but he ruled that construction of the highway can continue.

Clarice Blake-Rudkowski said the outcome is good for her and other Métis. She hopes the court's decision will set a precedent for other projects, including the hydro development on the Lower Churchill River.

"At least we'll be consulted and have an opportunity to say what we think of any given project," Blake-Rudkowski said.

However, Tom Rideout, the province's minister responsible for aboriginal affairs,said the court's latest decision only applies to the Trans-Labrador Highway.

"It's one project, one development and had no impact— legally at least— for any other possible developments in Labrador," Rideout said.

The government is still reviewing the court's decision and has not ruled out an appeal, Rideout said.

However, he said the province will include the Labrador Métis Nation in the planning for development on the Lower Churchill.