HALIFAX, N.S. — A judge has upheld a ruling that found 35 Mi’kmaq loggers guilty of harvesting timber on Crown land in 1998, 1999.
Supreme Court Justice Edward Scanlan dismissed the loggers’ appeal, advising aboriginals and governments to resolve their disputes through negotiations instead of courtroom battles.
“This adversarial approach does nothing to further the process of reconciliation,” says Justice Scanlan. “Surely after waiting 240 years it is time to move on and resolve the outstanding issues.
Last year, the natives were fined $200 per offence and ordered to pay court costs of $50 and a victim fine surcharge of $30 – for a total of $280 per conviction.
The natives had claimed rights to vast tracts of land throughout the province in a case that threatened to transform the logging industry the way the Marshall decision reshaped the Atlantic fishery.
“It is easy to understand the Mi’kmaq perspective wherein they feel they occupied Nova Scotia to the exclusion of all others,” says Justice Scanlan.
But he cited a significant difference between modern and historic uses of the wood in backing the trial judge’s original dismissal of the claim.
“I am satisfied that he did not err,” says Justice Scanlan.
A decision in favor of the natives, which would have given them unextinguished aboriginal title to most of Nova Scotia, could have posed major implications for governments and the lumber industry.
“It may have a very substantial impact on all Crown resources in the province of Nova Scotia,” says Justice Scanlan.
Indian Brook Chief Reg Maloney says he is disappointed by the decision, but not surprised.
“We’ll simply have to take the next step and appeal directly to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
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