On June 26, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Tsilhquot’in people in their title claim to more than 1700 square km of land in British Columbia.
The case is a landmark, and was a unanimous decision, supported 8-0 by the justices. The decision,
is the first time the Canadian courts have recognized full aboriginal title to a specific tract of land by, and experts in the field expect the ruling to have an impact on future title questions worldwide
(from Vancouver Island to New Zealand, or, one might say, from PKOLS
)“If the First People of this country have title, then only good things gonna come”
. Chief Roger William who played a lead role in the case, gives his thoughts immediately after the decision.
The recognition of aboriginal title rings in a new era
, after years of frustration over treaty negotiations, says Dr. Judith Sayers. Dr. Sayers, from the Hupacasath First Nation is a lawyer, and was the elected chief in her community for fourteen years and the chief negotiator for land settlement for more than sixteen. She gives a succinct summary
of the ruling, and its implications for resource development and BC business here.
Many commentators thinks the ruling will throw a wrench in plans for the Northern Gateway Pipeline:
Jeffrey Simpson worries “If Northern Gateway wasn’t dead before, it surely is now
.” (He thinks stopping the Northern Gateway is a bad thing, though most in BC disagree
Simpson’s may be right about the impact on Northern Gateway, according to the lead counsel for the Tsilhquot’in:
“The implications are huge. “I’m certain Northern Gateway is crossing land that is not subject to treaty and could be subject to aboriginal title,” Mr. Rosenberg said. Although Northern Gateway is not directly at issue in the case, the court’s decision could change the rules of the game for the pipeline..
Former Ontario Premier, Bob Rae also weighs in, with an excellent opinion piece arguing the ruling is a win for all Canadians, and to the naysayers, he says:
“Those who complain that the courts are not good places to resolve these issues should look in the mirror and ask themselves what they have really done to allow them their speedy and just resolution in another way.”
And Rafe Mair has an interesting take
, chronicling his own journey of understanding from (white) school boy to cabinet minister to columnist in BC, and his (eventual) support for first nations title.