Marion et al. v. Perley et al.

In Aboriginal Rights/Defences, Contracts, Fish Cases, Fisheries Practice on (Updated )

This case involved an alleged agreement whereby the plaintiff paid a First Nation for the exclusive right to manage and operate its commercial fisheries for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 fisheries. The agreement allegedly gave the plaintiff full control over the commercial fishery operations, the right to lease licences at will from the First Nation and be the designate as defined by Fisheries and Ocean’s (DFO) guidelines.

The contract worked well until there was a change in composition of the Band council. After that time there were a number of alleged breaches including forwarding a resolution to DFO that appointed a new chief councillor as the "fishing authority".

As a preliminary matter the court had to determine whether it had jurisdiction, as the Defendants argued that the Federal Court had jurisdiction because the Band Council was a "federal board, commission or other tribunal". In upholding its jurisdiction the court ruled that because the Band Council decisions being reviewed involved a private commercial matter, it was not acting as a "federal board, commission or other tribunal".

With respect to the request for an injunction, the court applied the three part test set out in RJR MacDonald Inc. v. Attorney General (Canada) (1994), CanLII 117 (SCC). The court had no difficulty finding that there was a serious issue to be tried. The court also found irreparable harm, based upon (a) the fact that the Band Council was under third party management by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and (b) if the contract were terminated there would be a ripple down effect impacting other parties the plaintiff had contracted with such as fishing captains and crews who were supposed to fish for the plaintiff. With respect to balance of convenience, since the three year contract would end approximately seven months after the decision was being issued, the court ruled in favour of the status quo.

Based upon its application of the RJR MacDonald test, the court granted the injunction to the end of 2015.