Supreme Court's land claim ruling could have big impact on resource development
Sign in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. (QMI AGENCY)
OTTAWA — The Supreme Court is expected to rule Thursday in a case about aboriginal land claims that could have profound implications for resource development in Canada.
The case goes back more than two decades when the B.C. government issued permits to logging companies to operate on land the Tsilhqot'in Nation claimed as its own.
The band said the licences contravened the right of its people to use the land for hunting and fishing. They set up blockades and took the matter to court.
Most First Nations communities in B.C. never signed treaties and the band argued in court it could claim title of a large tract of land in the B.C. interior because it was land the traditionally nomadic band had occupied since before the arrival of Europeans.
The B.C. court recognized the Tsilhqot'in Nation's title claim, but the province's court of appeal later ruled those title claims had to refer to specific pieces of land, not vast swaths.
This angered First Nations groups, who argued this "postage stamp approach" to title claims meant they could claim specific sites but no land connecting one site to another.
Claiming title over a morsel of land would allow a First Nation community to dictate, to an extent, what activities, industrial or otherwise, can take place on the land.
The Supreme Court is expected to provide some clarity about the legitimacy of aboriginal title claims, particularly when it comes to nomadic bands.
If the court finds the Tsilhqot'in Nation is indeed entitled to its title claim, the next question is whether provincial provisions, such as forestry regulations, would apply to the territory protected under the claim.