What does it mean to consult someone in a crucial decision?
This is an important question that has a profound impact on our private day-to-day lives, as well as in the broader sphere of public discourse.
In the recent case of the Squamish Nation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada — also known as the DFO — the Federal Court of Appeal has made the right decision.
For awhile, it would seem as if consultation was simply a matter of asking questions.
However, in a recent ruling in August, the courts have determined that consultation must be a two-way street.
This means dialogue about concerns and information that’s provided, according to a decision made by Justice of Appeal Eleanor Dawson published on Aug. 8.
In it, Dawson found that the DFO did not sufficiently consult the Squamish Nation before turning down their request to increase their sockeye quota to 70,000.
“In my view the duty of consultation required, at the least, an interactive process which included a meaningful two-way dialogue in which the Department did more than passively request and receive information from [the] Squamish [Nation],” wrote Dawson in the decision.
“Meaningful two-way dialogue required the Department to provide responses that were responsive, considered and meaningful in response to the concerns [the] Squamish [Nation] expressed and the information it provided.”
This is something we should all take note of.
We all know what it’s like when someone goes through the motions of consultation.
Doubtless, many of us have, over the course of our personal and professional lives brought up a pressing issue with someone — be it a life partner, a colleague, a friend or a boss. Many of us undoubtedly know what it feels like to have that person simply engage in head-nodding, followed up by no action.
While the appearances of consultation are there, the essential spirit of it is not.
In the case of the Aug. 8 decision, Dawson has rightfully pointed out that the passive receipt of information — in essence, idle head-nodding — does meet the standard of what it means to engage in consultation.
This is something that will be of pertinent note as the government moves forward in its relations with First Nations.
But, on a personal level, this is something that will apply to each and every one of us at the most basic spheres of everyday interaction.
Whether it be at home, the boardroom, the classroom or elsewhere, we would all do well to take Dawson’s decision to heart.
Consultation is important for us to create a harmonious society and important in all of our day-to-day relationships to survive and thrive. Remember this if you ever find yourself simply nodding your head in passive agreement.