meanwhile in the supreme court of canada


For the first time, the court recognized the existence of aboriginal title on a particular site, covering a vast swath of the British Columbia interior. The court also spelled out in detail what aboriginal title means: control of ancestral lands and the right to use them for modern economic purposes, without destroying those lands for future generations.


Government still has a right to intrude but only if it can reconcile aboriginal interests with wider public purposes – which can include mining and logging projects and, though the court didn’t say so specifically, the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coastal community of Kitimat.


The case involved the Tsilqhot’in Nation (pronounced Sil-KO-tin), a semi-nomadic people whose elders had testified about customs and practices in a remote valley west of Williams Lake, B.C., for the 400 people who lived there – in an area more than half the size of Greater Vancouver – when the British Crown asserted its sovereignty in 1846. The province had argued the population was too small to be in control of such a wide space. And the B.C. Court of Appeal had said title was a matter of small, specific sites such as rocks from which aboriginals had fished.

Sean Fine for Globe and Mail.

%d bloggers like this: