Greens welcome landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of Tsilhqot’in First Nation

The Green Party of Canada today celebrates the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision to acknowledge aboriginal title of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation to 1,700 square kilometres of land in British Columbia.

Today’s ruling comes after more than thirty years of legal disputes, beginning in the early 1980s when the Tsilhqot’in First Nation first launched a court challenge against logging operations in their traditional territory.

This decision effectively mandates that any development on land where title is established requires the consent of the First Nation holding that title. The ruling is expected to have a significant impact on a wide variety of future resource development projects, including the proposed Enbridge and Kinder-Morgan pipelines, and any other risky pipeline and tanker schemes.

“This is a victory for the Tsilhqot’in First Nation and for Aboriginal communities across Canada,” said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands. “In upholding the fundamental right of the Tsilhqot’in to their traditional territory, the Supreme Court of Canada has taken a positive step toward reconciliation.”

“The problem in many of the relationships between governments or corporations and First Nations is that First Nations are not treated as equal partners in a project,” said BC Green Party leader Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip First Nation. “This ruling goes a long way to ensure that First Nations are respected as equal partners going forward. Provincial governments across the country, and especially BC’s, will be paying special attention to this decision, as it clarifies the legal relationship between First Nations and non-First Nations peoples.”

“For far too long, our court system has undermined the legitimate land claims and legal rights of Aboriginal peoples across Canada,” said Lorraine Rekmans, Green Party Aboriginal Affairs Critic and a member of Ontario’s Serpent River First Nation. “This Supreme Court ruling validates what the Tsilhqot’in people have known all along. The people have cause to celebrate Canada’s recognition of the truth.”