R v. Arthur Aleck et al.

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

This case involved charges against 17 members of the Cheam Indian Band for fishing within their traditional territory on the Fraser River during a time that the fishery had been closed by D.F.O. Since the Crown admitted a prima facie case of infringement, this decision focused primarily on whether or not that infringement could be justified. In upholding the infringement as justified, the court said, amongst other things, as follows:

1. The term “conservation” means “more than merely protecting the stocks from extinction” (para. 35) and includes a D.F.O. plan to gradually rebuild the stocks over a 24 year period;

2. The Cheam do not have an ownership right in the fish, their right is “no more than a constitutionally protected Aboriginal right to fish, and that same right extends to all other Aboriginal Bands on the Fraser river, and in fact, to Aboriginal bands in Vancouver Island, who may have some access to the same fish” (para. 44);

3. Since fish were not “expropriated” in the sense used in Sparrow at page 119, the question of compensation does not arise (para. 50); and

4. The right to consultation does not give the Band a veto (para. 55).