The Tsilhqot’in First Nation won a landmark victory today. A Supreme Court of Canada decision granted the B.C. First Nation 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 the land and the right to profit from the land.
The Canadian Press reports that the ruling 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 decision was met with criticism from Tsilhqot’in First Nation, which argued that the group had traditionally never resided permanently in one area of the land and that the government had failed to consider their traditional way of life.
The decision by the Supreme Court of Canada says that governments must meet one of two criteria before conducting economic development on Aboriginal land.
In an interview with rabble.ca, Chief Russell Ross Myers of the Yunesit’in Government said that he is delighted and relieved that the Tsilhqot’in have received aboriginal title to the land.
“It was long overdue. Our nation has been in this struggle for the last 25 years. It’s a relief for our leadership right now,” he said.
You can read more about the Tsilhqot’in decision here.
For more coverage of Indigenous issues, check out our Indigenous issues page.
Miriam Katawazi is a fourth-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton University and rabble’s news intern. She has a strong passion for human rights and social justice in Canada and across the world. Her writing focuses on health, labour, education and human rights beats.