[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]F[/mk_dropcaps]or the Tsilhqot’in, a river people of central British Columbia, the June 2014 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to grant their aboriginal title brings clarity to a long-standing issue. For resource projects there, and in many areas across Canada where aboriginal title may still be an issue, it reinforces the need for governments to address claims and the need for the Crown and project proponents to meet the aboriginal “duty to consult” (the Crown’s legal obligation to confer with Aboriginal Peoples when it contemplates decisions or actions that may impact them).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”20″]Chief Roger William, one of six chiefs of the Tsilhqot’in people, had long sought recognition of aboriginal title over 1,750 square kilometres of the Fraser River valley. Despite this claim, the British Columbia government issued logging licences in the Tsilhqot’in traditional territory. The Supreme Court’s decision found that the provincial government had breached its duty to consult with the First Nations.[/vc_column_text][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”16″ align=”left”]This is a game-changing decision for a handful of First Nations across Canada who have asserted aboriginal title claims.[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]This is a game-changing decision for First Nations across Canada who have asserted aboriginal title claims. In essence, those wanting to do business — whether energy development or otherwise — on lands without treaties will need to work with local First Nations as partners. Gone are the days where a natural resource company could obtain a permit from a government and do business unabated on a First Nation’s traditional territory. Today’s business and legal climates necessitate relationship building and partnership between resource developers, the Crown and First Nation communities. This type of relationship building will be especially relevant throughout most of British Columbia, eastern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where treaties either are non-existent or do not address the question of land ownership.
Aboriginal title has been an issue for generations. This decision signals that the federal government needs to take aboriginal title claims seriously. There remains a lot of work to be done before First Nations can take their rightful place in Canadian society.[mk_font_icons icon=”icon-stop” size=”small” padding_horizental=”4″ padding_vertical=”4″ circle=”false” align=”none”][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][mk_custom_box border_width=”1″ bg_color=”#f6f5df” bg_position=”left top” bg_repeat=”repeat” bg_stretch=”false” padding_vertical=”30″ padding_horizental=”20″ margin_bottom=”10″ min_height=”100″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]
Highlights of the decision
• This is the first Supreme Court decision affirming aboriginal title since the concept of aboriginal title was recognized by the Supreme Court in 1973.
• In its decision, the court clarified the legal test for determining whether an aboriginal group has established title.
• Where aboriginal title has been established, third parties must obtain aboriginal consent for land use.
• Once aboriginal title is established, the government cannot use the land without the consent from the nation holding the title, unless the government can meet a complex legal test, including demonstrating a compelling need.[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”http://www.energy-exchange.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/First-Nation-Land-Claim-3-BC-ONLY.jpg” image_width=”800″ image_height=”287″ crop=”false” lightbox=”true” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][/mk_custom_box][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″ el_class=”Story-Author”]– Phil Fontaine, president and founder of Ishkonigan, a consulting and mediation firm, and former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#fff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#13bdd2″ text_color=”light” icon=”moon-reading” url=”/resources/energy-exchange-magazine/issue-3/” target=”_self” align=”left” fullwidth=”true” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″ animation=”fade-in”]Read more stories from the Winter 2015 issue of Energy Exchange magazine[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]