Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William (left) drums to open a meeting on the Prosperity Mine proposal in Ottawa while Tsilhqo’tin Tribal Chair Joe Alphonse and then-National Chief Shawn Atleo look on

Aboriginal groups celebrate land title ruling

Tsilhqot'in decision rejects B.C. position that title is restricted to settlement areas, includes broad hunting, fishing territories

Aboriginal communities across B.C. are celebrating a court ruling that redefines ownership of their traditional territory outside reserves.

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s claim to aboriginal title over the Nemiah Valley west of Williams Lake, in a landmark decision with effects across the province.

In a unanimous decision, the country’s highest court rejected the B.C. government’s argument that aboriginal title should be restricted to settlement sites and other places frequently occupied by semi-nomadic aboriginal people.

Joe Alphonse, tribal chief of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, said the ruling is a victory in a struggle that had its roots in deadly conflict with a wave of gold seekers during the 1860s. He said the communities need more control over resources to support more people living on reserves.

“We didn’t fight in this case to separate from Canada,” Alphonse told a news conference in Vancouver Thursday. “We fought in this case to get recognized, to be treated as equals in a meaningful way.”

Settlement sites and others used for hunting and fishing were exhaustively studied in a 2003 B.C. court case that granted broad title but was later overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

“The Province’s criticisms of the trial judge’s findings on the facts are primarily rooted in the erroneous thesis that only specific, intensively occupied areas can support Aboriginal title,” the eight Supreme Court of Canada justices agreed in a unanimous ruling released Thursday.

The Tsilhqot’in case was strengthened by evidence that “prior to the assertion of sovereignty the Tsilhqot’in people repelled other people from their land and demanded permission from outsiders who wished to pass over it,” the judges wrote.

The case began in 1983 when the B.C. government issued timber permits for the region and the Xeni Gwet’in, one of six Tsilhqot’in communities, went to court to stop the logging.

Haida Nation president Peter Lantin said the Tsilhqot’in case strengthens his island community’s title claim, which is being prepared for trial. The Haida claim includes the surrounding ocean off B.C.’s North Coast, which Lantin expects to use against plans for oil tankers from the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal.

Despite the long-running dispute and the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s refusal to take part in treaty talks, the B.C. aboriginal relations ministry signed a three-year “stewardship agreement” with the group June 10. The agreement gives the Tsilhqot’in $670,000 per year to implement a forestry strategy and other resource development.

B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton said the Tsilhqot’in ruling, like other aboriginal title cases, emphasizes that negotiated settlements are preferable to court action to settle claims in the majority of the province that are not covered by treaties.

NDP leader John Horgan said the decision shows the B.C. government should have accepted the 2007 decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Vickers.

“Instead, the B.C. Liberal government wasted millions of scarce tax dollars and created seven more years of uncertainty for investors and communities, by blindly pursuing a legal theory that was unanimously and soundly rejected today by the Supreme Court of  Canada,” Horgan said.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Local athletes prepare for BC Summer Games

Twenty-one local young athletes will head to the BC Summer Games next month

Two women injured in off road vehicle crash

One victim thrown down cliff

Youth addiction centre near Keremeos celebrates one year

Ashnola at the Crossing has been open just over a year

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

Jett Woo highlights 5 Canucks choices on Day 2 of NHL entry draft

WHL star out of Moose Jaw tabbed in Round 2

Cozy Bay to close

Summerland seafood restaurant’s lease will not be renewed

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

Feds announce measures to protect endangered whale species

Canada’s Whale Initiative is part of the federal government’s $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan

Reported stabbing in Lake Country

Police are believed to be investigating after a reported stabbing at a house party Friday night

COC session vote approves Calgary as potential host for 2026 Olympics

Scott Hutcheson, chair of Calgary’s Olympic bid corporation — called vote a positive step forward

B.C. man wins job he was denied after saying he had depression

Transport Canada has been order to give Chris Hughes a high-level job and nearly $500,000

Most Read