BC AG guarded about Aboriginal land ruling
Suzanne Anton. (FILE PHOTO)
British Columbia’s Attorney General Suzanne Anton says the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to grant territory title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation provides clarity for future issues, stopping short of divulging possible ramifications.
The unanimous decision grants title over a 1,750-square-kilometre region in central B.C. to the Tsilhqot’in Nation and gives the community control over what development takes place there.
This is the first time the Supreme Court has recognized an aboriginal title claim to a specific piece of land. Title claims involve land for which there is no treaty — land that was never ceded.
Anton was guarded in her reaction to the ruling, insisting numerous times the government will “continue” to work with First Nations to resolve land disputes.
“It is a significant decision and we believe it will be very helpful,” Anton said. “We will take the time required to fully analyze it and work with First Nations, industry and all of our stakeholders as we do so.”
The ruling is expected to set a precedent for other unresolved land claims. It establishes clearer guidelines for government when it comes to development and its duty to consult on resource projects.
But Anton was hesitant to tell reporters exactly what that means for projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline and repeated the ruling was being reviewed.
“We have a very strong working relationship with First Nations around resource development, around environmental issues and that will continue,” she said. She did say the ruling does not mean areas granted title no longer fall under provincial jurisdiction and said it was too early to comment on which, if any, provincial laws would change in accordance with the ruling.