The Grand Council of the Crees applies to intervene in Strateco’s latest lawsuit

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Just before Christmas, the Grand Council of the Crees launched an effort to counter the legal offensive by Boucherville-based Strateco Inc. over Quebec’s rejection of the proposed Matoush uranium project. The Grand Council is seeking legal status as an intervener in Strateco’s lawsuit against Quebec’s Minister of the Environment, Yves-François Blanchet.

In December, Strateco filed suit in Quebec Superior Court asking the court to nullify Blanchet’s decision to refuse Strateco a certificate of authorization for advanced uranium exploration in the Otish Mountains.

According to Sack Goldblatt Mitchell lawyer Jessica Orkin, who represents the Grand Council, “Strateco, in starting this suit, has only named the Minister of the Environment. In order to be able to have the chance to participate, in the sense of receiving documents and having an entitlement to make submissions to the court, you need to intervene. The court doesn’t just let anyone in: you have to have a reason to be there. So we’ve set out why it is the Crees have a reason to be there.”

This follows another Strateco suit in which the Grand Council had its say. In January 2013, the company filed a lawsuit attempting to force the Quebec Superior Court to remove the condition of social acceptability from the determining factors of the COMEX (provincial review) report on the Matoush project.

“They’ve made the same choice twice,” Orkin said. “In their last suit, they didn’t name the Crees and we intervened. In this suit, they didn’t name the Crees, so this is our request to intervene again.”

If the parties involved in a lawsuit make no objection to an application to intervene, then the third party is automatically admitted to make its statement to the court. However, should one of the parties object, a judge will decided on the application to intervene after each party makes its arguments.

“On the Mandamus application that was started last January, Strateco did not object,” noted Orkin. However, the company has indicated its intention to oppose the intervention in its newest lawsuit.

“I can say that the Crees took a very aggressive and active role in the last application,” she added, “and I can imagine that that was not welcomed by Strateco, in the sense that it increased their efforts and decreased their success. We intend to continue to act that way in going forward, in the sense of participating actively, because this is such an important issue for the Crees.”

In previous arguments, Strateco CEO Guy Hébert argued that because the Matoush project is situated on Category III lands under the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), Crees should not be able to exert an influence over it.

“The minister cannot abdicate his authority and give the Crees a veto on Category III lands, thereby creating a historical precedent in the development of Quebec’s natural resources,” Strateco said in a statement.

The Cree application argues that the JBNQA – supported by Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, the Cree-Naskapi Act, and the 2010 Supreme Court decision Quebec (Attorney General) vs. Moses – creates a unique judicial space in which the Crees have the power to protect their land and traditions.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come emphasized the need for Cree consent.

“The requirement of social acceptability as a condition for development in Eeyou Istchee is an essential aspect of the successful nation-to-nation relationship between the Crees and Quebec,” Coon Come said. “Strateco’s legal action represents a fundamental challenge to the principle of social acceptability, and to our treaty rights. We are committed to protecting our environment and our treaty rights, for current and future generations.”

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