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Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia Backgrounder

Aboriginal; title and rights; forestry; Section 35(1); constitutional law
Hilland, Andrea

The ground-breaking decision of Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, released on November 21, 2007, offers the Province and Canada some incentive to recognize and affirm First Nations title and rights. In Tsilhqot’in, Justice Vickers said he was unable to make a declaration of Aboriginal title, but concluded that the evidence before him proves that Tsilhqot’in title does exist in specific portions of Tsilhqot’in territory, comprising approximately 200,000 hectares. Vickers J. also found that the Tsilhqot’in people have an Aboriginal right to hunt and trap, to capture wild horses and to trade in skins and pelts, and that these rights were unjustifiably infringed by forestry activities authorized by the Province. The Province was quick to dismiss the judgment as a non-binding statement of opinion. According to BC, since Vickers J. did not make a declaration of Aboriginal title, his findings regarding Aboriginal title lands are irrelevant. But they are relevant. Vickers J. makes a number of findings as to the implications of Aboriginal title that should impact future relations between the governments of Canada, British Columbia and First Nations. Vickers J. also suggests a new model of sustainability that would entail “the development of cooperative joint planning mechanisms taking into account the needs that must be addressed on behalf of the Tsilhqot’in community and the broader British Columbia and Canadian communities.” While Vickers J.’s proposed solution is geared toward the resolving the specific Tsilhqot’in situation, the Tsilhqot’in decision may become a catalyst to overhaul current land and resource management at both the federal and provincial levels of governance.

Publication Date: 
December 1, 2007
Publication Pages: 
West Coast Environmental Law
Publication City: 
Vancouver, BC
Publication Format: