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New AFN chief 'absolutely' supports Ontario chiefs in push for carbon price review

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The incoming leader of the Assembly of First Nations says she'll back demands by chiefs in Ontario for a judicial review of Canada's carbon price.

Cindy Woodhouse, a former regional chief from Manitoba, was elected Thursday as the assembly's national chief — leader of the largest First Nations advocacy organization in the country, representing more than 600 communities.

The Chiefs of Ontario, which represents 133 First Nations, asked the Federal Court to undertake a judicial review of the federal government's carbon pricing system.

Shortly after taking the oath of office, Woodhouse told a news conference in Ottawa that she's "absolutely" willing to support the application, and wants the AFN to take a closer look of its own at the carbon regime.

"From what I'm hearing, it's going to hurt our people," she said. "We should have a proper legal strategy on that, as well as a political lens on it."

The Ontario chiefs say the carbon price is discriminatory, in part because its rebate mechanism is tied to the federal income tax system, which many who live and work on reserves do not use.

 chiefs launched their application after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau imposed a three-year carbon exemption on home heating oil, a dominant fuel in Atlantic Canada.

It asks the court to order the government to sit with the chiefs to negotiate a solution that would help "alleviate the climate crisis" without worsening the "human rights crisis" many First Nations are forced to endure.

Alternatively, the group wants the court to issue an interim exemption and order the government to develop a solution with First Nations.

"As Canada knows, this regime is grossly unjust to First Nations and their members," the document said.

The judicial review application has not been tested in court.

Trudeau has already said his government is not prepared to offer any more exemptions. Asked directly about the legal action, he's only said the government would keep working with First Nations on reconciliation and affordability.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, meanwhile, has been using the dispute as part of his months-long push for Trudeau to get rid of the consumer carbon price altogether.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2023.

— With files from Jordan Omstead in Toronto 

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