On Thursday June 26th, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a ground-breaking decision that recognizes the land claim of a B.C. First Nation. This ruling has national implications and will most certainly impede the rush to exploit fossil fuels and extractive industries in general.
The unanimous ruling granted B.C.’s Tsilhqot’in First Nation title to a 1,700-square-kilometre area of traditional land outside its reserve. However, the decision also sets a game-changing precedent. Going forward, logging, fossil fuel extraction and mining operations on or near aboriginal lands must have the consent from affected aboriginal groups. This has a direct bearing on projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline which crosses four territories with aboriginal claims.
The ruling will have implications that go far beyond B.C. and stretch all the way across the country to Quebec and the East Coast. It will even have repercussions in areas where there are no land treaties.
The Supreme Court decision states that the government has a duty to consult and accommodate First Nations even as the land claim is underway. If the First Nations group does not consent, the government can only go against its wishes if it proves it’s justified under the Constitution.
© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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