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In Brief: Thomas v. Rio Tinto Alcan Inc., 2024 BCCA 62 – First Peoples Law

March 21, 2024

What it’s about

The BC Court of Appeal held that Canada and BC have a fiduciary duty to protect the Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations’ Aboriginal right to fish on the Nechako River, including by ensuring the water allocation and flow regime is managed in a manner consistent with the Crown’s obligations under section 35 of the Constitution.

What happened

The Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations brought a claim in nuisance against Rio Tinto Alcan Ltd. on the basis that construction and operation of the Kenney Dam infringed their Aboriginal right to fish on the Nechako River.

At trial, the BC Supreme Court held Rio Tinto was not liable for private nuisance because it had complied with all regulatory requirements associated with the dam. The Court also issued a declaration stating the Crown had a positive obligation to protect the First Nations’ Aboriginal right to fish.

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