First Nations Win In Land Ruling
Submitted by Aleah Sato – Senior Writer – Ricksticks Inc.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that governments must consult with First Nations before developing land that aboriginal groups claim to own – even if the titles have not been proven though courts or treaties.
But, this ruling does not extend to private industry developers and although governments are under duty to consult, they are not obliged to receive consent before using the land. “Rather, the commitment is to a meaningful process of consultation,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the court.
The landmark ruling is significant because more than 1,000 unsettled land claims affect most of British Columbia and much of the country. It is Canada’s highest court’s first endeavor to establish ground rules and define unresolved questions.
“We’re not interested in dispossessing anyone or taking away what people have,” said Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. ”We’re interested in fair and just compensation.”
This ruling could mean lengthy litigation for aboriginal groups. “These court decisions invite more negotiations and more litigation,” Edward John, grand chief of the First Nations Summit told Canadian Press. The group represents about 140 B.C. bands in treaty negotiations.
“The ball is in the hands of the government now. They need to sit down, as the court says, and deal with us. They can’t run roughshod over the interests of our people,” John added.
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