The Supreme Court of Canada has issued a declaration of Aboriginal Title in the case of the Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia - this is the first time that a Canadian court has issued a declaration of Aboriginal title.
What did the Supreme Court decide, and what are the implications of this decision?
The Supreme Court of Canada declared that the Tsilhqot’in Nation (located in British Columbia) has aboriginal title to part of their traditional territory. This means they have ownership rights similar to any other landowner, such as occupying the land, deciding how the land is used, enjoying economic benefits of the land, and managing the land.
Many Canadians live on lands where there is some agreement about Aboriginal title. We know these agreements as “treaties” and hundreds of them have been made. But not all land is covered by treaties and this decision recognizes that Aboriginal title existed before settlers first arrived, and continues to exist.
MCC Ontario continues to remember titled land that is not being honoured from Six Nations in southern Ontario to Attawapiskat First Nation in the far north.
“As I reflect on the Supreme Court decision, I think about Victoria Island in Ottawa. The island has significance as the historical gathering place for Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and perhaps the strength of the ribbon tree that sits on the island helped judges with their recent ruling, granting titled land to Tsilhqot’in Nation” says Lyndsay Mollins-Koene, MCC Ontario’s Aboriginal Neighbours Program Coordinator.
Read a summary of this landmark decision from Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP.
More info about MCC Ontario’s Aboriginal Neighbours program is available here.