28 December 2007

Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia, 2007

Many thanks to Dr. Roi Kwabena for forwarding this information.

Media release from Woodward and Company:

Decision Reached in Historical Land Claim Case:

Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia, 2007 BCSC 1700

Victoria, British Columbia, November 21, 2007 - After a courageous and epic struggle, a small Tsilhqot'in First Nation that took on the governments of Canada and British Columbia to protect their land and way of life has been victorious in Court. In a major precedent-setting decision, Justice David Vickers of the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled today that the Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) people have proven Aboriginal title to approximately 200,000 square hectares in and around the remote Nemiah Valley, south and west of Williams Lake, British Columbia. Although Justice Vickers declined to make a declaration of title based on technical issues, he found that the tests for evidence of title were met in almost half the area claimed.

The trial lasted 339 days during which 29 Tsilhqot'in witnesses gave evidence, many in their native language. 604 exhibits were entered with Exhibit 156 alone containing over 1,000 historical documents. The Judge received about 7,000 pages of written submissions from the lawyers on all sides.

"The court has given us greater control of our lands. From now on, nobody will come into our territory to log or mine or explore for oil and gas, without seeking our agreement," said the Plaintiff, Chief Roger William. "The court recognized that we have proven title in about half of the Claim Area - and from today we accept our renewed responsibility and powers of ownership of those lands."

Justice Vickers made a number of important findings that will impact future relations between the governments of Canada and British Columbia and First Nations, including:

1. The Tsilhqot'in people have aboriginal rights, including the right to trade furs to obtain a moderate livelihood, throughout the Claim Area.

2. British Columbia's Forest Act does not apply within Aboriginal title lands.

3. British Columbia has infringed the Aboriginal rights and title of the Tsilhqot'in people, and has no justification for doing so.

4. Canada's Parliament has unacceptably denied and avoided its constitutional responsibility to protect Aboriginal lands and Aboriginal rights, pursuant to s. 91(24) of the Constitution.

5. British Columbia has apparently been violating Aboriginal title in an unconstitutional and therefore illegal fashion ever since it joined Canada in 1871.

Throughout much of Canada and the United States, the colonial governments made treaties with First Nations to purchase their lands. This did not happen in most of British Columbia. The government has continued to deny that B.C.'s indigenous people inherited the land that their grandparents owned.

A longer version is available at:

2) A link to the decision itself is available at: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/sc/sc-jdbwk.asp

Dr Roi Ankhkara Kwabena

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