Nunavut Territory (Attorney General) v. Canada

In Aboriginal Rights/Defences, Fish Cases, Judicial Review/Crown Liability on (Updated )

This case involved the challenge of a decision of the Minister of Fisheries involving the allocation of the benefit of a 29 per cent increase in the total allowable catch of shrimp. This 29 per cent increase amounted to 2,127 additional tons of catch. of that 2,127 tons, all but 940 tons were allocated to Nunavut or Nunavut related interests. The remaining 940 tons were allocated to 17 existing licence holders who helped develop the fishery. Of those 17 existing licence holders, 1.5 of the licences were Nunavut interests.

One of two preliminary motions concerned the standing of the Attorney General of Nunavut to bring the judicial review application. Since the A.G. was not directly affected by the decision, the court ruled it had no standing under s. 18.1 of the Federal Court Act. In addition, it did not have public interest standing because there was another reasonable and effective way to bring the issue before the court by way of application by Nunavutr Tunngavik Incorporated. Notwithstanding the lack of standing, in the interest of judicial economy the court decided to exercise its discretion to adjudicate the matter.

The court also rejected a preliminary motion to deny the application on the basis of mootness.

With respect to the main challenge to the decision, the court applied a standard of review of patent unreasonableness and denied the application as follows at paragraphs 69,70::

In Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. v. Canada (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans) [footnote deleted], Justice Evans, for the Court, wrote at paragraphs [4]:

appellant’s quota in the turbot fishery has increased over the years, both absolutely and relatively, it cannot be said that the Minister had no regard to the adjacency and economic dependency principles.

I am satisfied that precisely the same could be said on the facts on this matter in relation to the Northern shrimp allocation in SFA 1 to Nunavut interests. Further, it is beyond question that the share of Nunavut interests in the 2003 increase of quota allocation was significantly higher than that of other interests in the same fishery. Against the words of Article 15.3.7 of the Agreement, it cannot be said that "special consideration" was not given to the principles of "…adjacency and economic dependence in the Nunavut Settlement Area on marine resources…", particularly when the Minister was required to apply those principles "…in such a way as to promote a fair distribution of [quota] between the residents of the Nunavut Settlement Area and the other residents of Canada …in a manner consistent with Canada’s interjurisdictional obligations." The special allocation made to Nunavut interests clearly was not "special enough" in the eyes of the Government of Nunavut and in the eyes of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. It is not difficult for the Court to be sympathetic to that position, but that, of itself, is no grounds to set aside the decision under review. Against the standard of judicial review that is here appropriate, I am satisfied that the decision under review must stand. It cannot be said to be patently unreasonable. Put another way, it was open to the Minister, taking into account all of the competing interests that were before him.