The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing a historic case on Aboriginal title today, with an appeal of the Tsilhqot’in Nation taking place in Ottawa. The Council of Canadians, along with its Williams Lake chapter, is supporting the Tsilhqot’in Nation advancing aboriginal title in the case as an intervener.
The Council’s submission argues that “meaningful recognition and affirmation of aboriginal rights and title in Canada is fundamental to improving social justice for Canada’s aboriginal peoples” and that “meaningful recognition of aboriginal title is a moral imperative”.
“We support Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “They are the rightful stewards of their lands, and should be the ones to decide if and how they are developed.”
The case is challenging a lower court ruling that suggested Aboriginal title could only be defined or recognized for small fragmented areas of land. The Council of Canadians is supporting the recognition of title more broadly and liberally, rather than just for isolated pockets of land, in recognition of Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent.
The Council’s submission also argues that the Court should be free to “to define aboriginal title broadly, including on a territorial basis” in keeping with constitutional obligations.
Tsilhqot’in Elders, youth, Chief Roger William from Xeni Gwet’in, Councillors, honoured delegates such as Grand Chief Stewart Phillip from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and Chief Bob Chamberlin, UBCIC Vice-President, embarked on an “Indigenous Land Title Express” across the country in order to attend the historic Supreme Court of Canada appeal of the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s Aboriginal title case.
The Supreme Court hearing takes place just days before the first anniversary of the emergence of the Idle No More movement and in anticipation of a cabinet decision on a severely flawed Taseko Mines proposal located in traditional Tsilhqot’in territory that threatens Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).
In its recent report the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review panel concluded that Taseko’s proposed “New Prosperity Mine” project “would result in significant adverse effects on the Tsilhqot’in.” The Council of Canadians and other opponents of the project are saying that Taseko Mines should not be allowed to proceed with this project or submit yet another proposal.