The Supreme Court of Canada issued a ground-breaking declaration of Aboriginal title on June 26, 2014. The Court’s decision in Roger William (on behalf of the Tsilhqot’in Nation) v BC marks the first time that a court has granted Aboriginal title to a specific land area in Canada – in this case, over a remote valley in central British Columbia. The Court also found that British Columbia breached its duty to consult when it made land use planning decisions and issued forestry licences over the lands where title was claimed by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation.
This decision provides both a road map for Aboriginal title claims and key signposts for other cases respecting treaties and land claims. It also sends a clear signal that government cannot ignore questions about Aboriginal title when taking actions such as issuing permits. The application of this case in the treaty context will be clearer after the SCC delivers its decision on Keewatin, expected on July 11.
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