Thursday, June 26, 2014 will go down as an extraordinary day in the history of the Xeni Gwet’in people and that of all First Nations across the country, in fact.
Tsilhqot’in chiefs were front and centre yesterday following the historic ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada on Aboriginal rights and title.
The court unanimously (8-0) agreed that Aboriginal rights and title is not exclusive to just settlement areas, but can be applied to areas only used some of the time by semi-nomadic tribes.
The Xeni Gwet’in launched the court action more than 20 years ago following a dispute over logging in a portion of their trapline and is named after current Chief Roger William, who was on hand for yesterday’s decision.
The ruling was specific to about 1,700 square kilometres in the Xeni Gwet’in’s land claim but will no doubt have sweeping impacts over future land claims, as well as economic or resource development on First Nations lands across the country.
The chiefs said the win clears the path for true reconciliation, where governments will have to sit down with First Nations and negotiate on issues within their lands.
It will also likely put the onus on government and businesses to look for consent from First Nations, rather than mere consultation, on projects within their traditional areas.
Though the ruling is bound to significantly complicate large projects such as mines and pipelines, it does establish the meaning of title and may lead to more certainty in the future for everyone involved.
– Williams Lake Tribun