A Supreme Court of Canada decision has granted the Tsilhqot’in First Nation of British Columbia Aboriginal title over a wide area of traditional territory. The unanimous 8-0 decision, gives the Tsilhqot’in First Nation rights to more than 1,700 square kilometers of land. The group now has rights to the land, the right to use land and the right to profit from the land. Reports indicate that this is the Supreme Court’s first on Aboriginal title, and can be used as a precedent wherever there are unresolved land claims.
In 2012, the B.C. Court of Appeal granted the Tsilhqot’in rights to hunt, trap and trade in its traditional territory, but agreed with both the federal and provincial governments that the Tsilhqot’in must indicate specific sites where its people had lived instead of claiming a broad area. The Tsilhqot’in criticized that initial decision, arguing that they had traditionally never resided permanently in one area of the land and that the government had failed to consider their traditional way of life.
This decision by the Supreme Court of Canada now requires governments to meet one of two criteria before conducting economic development on Aboriginal land.