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ILSA Speakers Series: Duncan's First Nation's Fight to Protect Treaty Rights from Cumulative Effects

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


This week, we are highlighting speakers at the 2023 Indigenous Law Students Association (ILSA) Speakers Series, March 6 – 10 at UofA Law School (in person and virtual).


Today, March 9th, guests will hear from Chief Virginia Gladue, and two individuals assisting Duncan’s First Nation, Matt General and lawyer Jeff Langlois. The trio will speak about Duncan’s First Nation’s lawsuit against the Province of Alberta for breach of its obligations to Duncan’s First Nation under Treaty 8. The Nation is arguing that Alberta breached its “honourable and fiduciary duties, by authorizing extensive non-Indigenous use of lands, waters and natural resources in and around the First Nation’s traditional territory.”[1]



Duncan’s claim is similar to the successful and precedent-setting Blueberry River First Nation (BRFN) claim.[2] In Yahey,[3] the British Columbia Supreme Court found that the cumulative effects of industrial activity authorized by the province of British Columbia unjustifiably infringed BRFN’s treaty rights – including the right to meaningfully hunt, trap and fish in a manner consistent with its way of life, which Treaty 8 promises to protect.[4] The court banned the province from issuing any more authorizations in the claim area until consultation and negotiations resulted in timely enforceable mechanisms to assess and manage the cumulative impacts of industrial development on treaty rights.[5]


You won’t find a biography online for Chief Gladue. I thought I'd share some thoughts from my dealings with her while I worked for the Alberta Ministers of Energy and Indigenous Relations.


Shortly after Chief Gladue was first elected in 2016, I visited the Nation with Marg McCuaig-Boyd, then MLA for the area, and Minister of Energy for Alberta. The two were well acquainted through their backgrounds in education. At the time, I was struck by how the small Nation’s reserve land, near Fairview, Alberta, was surrounded by farmland in all directions. I was told members had to travel some distance to hunt.



Chief Gladue was very warm and welcoming. She spoke to us about the many challenges facing the Nation, but also her many hopes, dreams and aspirations, including better mental health supports for members, building better relationships with government and industry, creating better protections for the environment, and creating joint ownership ventures with local companies and investing revenues from these ventures into areas such as health and education for community members. Duncan’s First Nation was a strong advocate for their rights in all their meetings with the Alberta government. Chief Gladue’s contributions to meetings were always well-considered and insightful.



In 2019, Chief Gladue won re-election, campaigning on the improvements to community, environment, well-being and relationships that occurred during her tenure.[6]


One of the two other speakers today is Matt General, who is independently assisting Duncan’s First Nation with their case.[7] Matt’s identity and culture is derived from his father’s British roots and his mother, who is Wolf Clan / Gayogohó:nq’, a sovereign Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.[8] Matt has worked on protecting Indigenous rights for over twenty-five years.[9] Prior to working with Indigenous Nations, he worked for the energy industry and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office on major project reviews. He is currently the Manager of Indigenous Consultation and Advisory Services for JFK Law.[10]

The third speaker today is Jeff Langlois, a partner with JFK Law. Jeff practices in areas such as Aboriginal law and civil litigation.[11] Much of his focus is on environmental, constitutional and Crown consultation law.[12] Jeff supports the advancement of his clients’ Aboriginal and Treaty rights, including self-determination over lands and waters. He does this through the courts, through consultation with the Crown and negotiations with industry. He has worked with Indigenous communities throughout Canada, in particular, British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon.[13] He also represents non-Indigenous clients in civil litigation matters, with a focus on public, administrative Photo Source: https://www.ualberta.ca/law

law and property law.[14] He has appeared in many /about/ilsa-speaker-series.html

courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada.[15]


Click on this link to learn more or to register for in-person or online attendance. You won’t want to miss today’s speakers, or Supreme Court Justice Michelle O’Bonsawain, who speaks tomorrow!


We hope to see you there!


Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG


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[1] Kaelan Unrau, “JFK Law files Treaty claim on behalf of Duncan’s First Nation to address the cumulative effects of development” (7 September 2022), online: JFK Law LLP <www.jfklaw.ca> [https://perma.cc/E94X-Z4CQ].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Yahey v British Columbia, 2021 BCSC 1287 at paras 3, 1894 [Yahey].

[4] Ibid at para 3.

[5] Ibid at para 1894.

[6] Virginia Gladue, “Re-Elect Chief Gladue” (13 June 2019), posted on Re-Elect Chief Gladue, online Facebook <www.facebook.com/ChiefGladue/> [archived with author].

[7] Indigenous Law Students Association, “2023 ILSA Speaker Series” (accessed 6 March 2023), online: University of Alberta Faculty of Law <https://www.ualberta.ca/law/about/ilsa-speaker-series.html> [https://perma.cc/27D4-MMYA] [ILSA].

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] JFK Law LLP, “Jeff Langlois” (Accessed 6 March 2023), online: Jeff Langlois <https://jfklaw.ca/team/jeff-langlois/> [https://perma.cc/L4LJ-UBSU].

[12] ILSA, supra note 7.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

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