B.C. appeal court upholds Nisga'a treaty against constitutional challenge

VANCOUVER, B.C. – British Columbia’s top court has rejected a challenge of the province’s first modern-day native treaty.

Members of the Nisga’a First Nation challenged the agreement signed in 1998 by the northwest B.C. band and the provincial and federal governments.

The dissidents, led by James Robinson, argued the treaty and the enabling laws passed in Parliament and the B.C. legislature created a third order of government and were unconstitutional and that the taxation powers given to the Nisga’a government should be declared void.

But the B.C. Court of Appeal has dismissed the challenge, saying the treaty does not alter Canada’s constitution, and the taxation powers are valid.

The court says the Nisga’a government does not have unlimited taxation powers, only those provided under the legislation to directly tax Nisga’a citizens for specific purposes for the First Nation.

This is the second time the treaty has been upheld, after an earlier court challenge was dismissed in 2000.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.