Administrative law – Aboriginal issues – Firearms registration – Infringement on Aboriginal rights – Damages – Stay of proceedings
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General),  Nu.J. No. 2, Nunavut Court of Justice, July 8, 2003, Kilpatrick J.
The Plaintiff Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (“NTI”), on behalf of Inuit enrolled as beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (“NLCA”), resisted the implementation in Nunavut of the universal licensing and registration scheme for the possession, use and purchase of all firearms and ammunition under the Firearms Act, R.S.C. 1995, c. 39. It was argued by NTI that the legislative scheme unlawfully infringed upon rights guaranteed to Inuit, including the individual beneficiary’s right of harvest, under the NLCA. Pending trial, NTI sought an interim order staying application of the Firearms Act as well as applicable sections of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c.46. The application was supported by the Government of Nunavut, which had been granted intervenor status in the action. The Federal Government opposed the application for an interim stay and, in turn, sought immediate summary judgment against NTI on the basis that the Plaintiff’s action did not give rise to genuine issue for trial.
The Federal Government’s application for summary judgment was denied. The court was satisfied that NTI’s claim was not frivolous or vexatious, and it did raise a serious issue to be tried. With respect to NTI’s application for an interlocutory stay, the court found that NTI had raised significant issues of treaty interpretation. The court also found NTI had established “irreparable harm” as refusal to grant relief may interfere with Inuit harvesting and may affect the quality of Inuit lifestyle in isolated settlements by disrupting Inuit food supply in remote communities. It may cause long-term damage to values of Inuit society. The potential for damage was both significant and immediate and therefore an interim stay was granted.
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