NAN – Justice Patrick Smith Controversy Disrespectful

Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Lakehead University Faculty of Law
Ontario's Bora Laskin Law School - Photo by Derek Silver

Thunder Bay, ON – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says, “Voices that matter have been left out of the controversy surrounding Superior Court Justice Patrick Smith, who was facing a judicial council review for accepting the position of interim dean at Thunder Bay’s law school.

The appointment of Justice Smith as interim dean without seeking input from local and regional First Nation leadership was disrespectful. Justice Smith sentenced Chief Donny Morris and five members of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug council to prison for protecting their territory from unwanted development. Anyone who did not experience the persecution of the KI 6 should not be weighing in on these issues,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “No one, from the university to the judiciary, should be interfering in these issues without speaking to our leaders, some of whom sacrificed their freedom to defend their rights. Once again, decisions are being made about us without us. That lawyers and retired judges, Indigenous or not, are lining up in defense of one of their own, is frustrating but not surprising.”

Justice Smith has shown poor judgement in many of his decisions regarding First Nations, from jailing our leaders to cutting off access to an entire First Nation community in his ruling on CN’s responsibility to maintain the only bridge connecting Fort William First Nation to the City of Thunder Bay – two decisions that were reversed.

Justice Smith sentenced Chief Morris and five members of the Kitchenumaykoosib Inninuwug Council (the KI 6) to prison in 2008 during the community’s lengthy fight to protect their traditional territory from mining activity, a case in which NAN was a formal party in the court of appeal.

He was appointed interim dean of Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin School of Law in May 2018 after the resignation of Angelique EagleWoman over claims that she suffered systemic racism and harassment by the university.


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