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Supreme Court has decreed that Aboriginal title may be granted to the Tsilhqot'in First Nation

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Supreme Court of Canada has decreed that Aboriginal title in British Columbia may be granted to the Tsilhqot'in First Nation in a landmark ruling.

The 8-0 unanimous ruling is a historic first.

The Vancouver Sun reported prior to the ruling:

It is expected to be the first time the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on a specific claim to title, or land property rights, and experts say it could be the most important case in the history of Aboriginal rights development in Canada.

Issue of land ownership and sovereignty have been ongoing for the Tsilhqot'in, with legal battles and protests over clear-cut logging permits that were granted back in the 1980s taking shape most recently during Idle No More demonstrations.

But Thursday's ruling will apply across the country to pockets of unceeded land or unresolved treaty claims on lands occupied by First Nations groups.

The Tsilhqot'in people of B.C. -- roughly 3,000 strong -- have been awarded title to a large 1,750 square km of wilderness in and around the Nemiah Valley, where the battle over the clear-cutting has been ongoing for the past three decades.

Now, although the Supreme Court ruling by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has allowed that provincial or federal governments may have regulatory control over economic opportunity such as forestry on title lands, first, free, prior, informed consent must be achieved with the Indigenous nation involved or the government must prove the land use purpose is for the greater public good or the government's fiduciary duty to act on behalf of the people involved.

Specifically in the case of the now Tsilhqot'in titled lands, British Columbia's desire to clear cut its land under the provincial Forestry Act -- so far imagined without the permission of the Tsilhqot'in people -- must be re-written.

The Supreme Court ruling also reinforces the opinion of the late B.C. Supreme Court trial judge David Vickers, and said Aboriginal title will exist and extend wherever First Nations groups can show their occupation of land in the sense of "regular and exclusive use."

The future impact of this ruling for B.C. could affect other economic and resource extraction projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

More info to come.

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