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Major Victory: Canadian Supreme Court Hands Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal Title

The Tsilhqot’in Nation were granted Aboriginal Title by the Supreme Court of Canada over 1,750 square kilometres.
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According to the APTN the Supreme Court of Canada granted a decision today in favor of the First Nations community Tsilhqot’in.

“The Supreme Court granted a declaration of Aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in over 1,750 square kilometres [675 square miles) of territory in a historic ruling,” APTN states.

APTN goes on to note: “this is the first time the high court has ever granted a declaration of Aboriginal title to a First Nation.”

What comes with the decision is the acknowledgment of indigenous nations rights to claim occupancy and control over vast swaths of land beyond specific settlement sites.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation has a population of 3,000 people and covers six communities.

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The Supreme Court overruled the decisions by British Columbia and Ottawa which opposed the Tsilhqot’in claim to title.

In doing so, the Supreme Court questioned an earlier decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal saying the courts definition of occupancy was too narrow.

The Court of Appeal ruling came in 2012 when the court heard the First Nations bands were “semi-nomadic” with few permanent encampments, despite seeing the area as their own while protecting it from outsiders according to a CBC News story.

“There is no suggestion in the jurisprudence or scholarship that Aboriginal title is confined to specific village sites or farms, as the court of appeal held,” the ruling said via APTN. “Rather, a culturally sensitive approach suggests that regular use of territories for hunting, fishing, trapping and foraging is ‘sufficient’ use to ground Aboriginal title.”

“On behalf of the First Nations across the country, we extend our congratulations and convey our gratitude to Chief Roger William, the Xeni Gwet’in and the Tsilhqot’in National Government for their leadership and determination in bringing this case forward and taking on this challenge over the past 25 years,” AFN spokesperson and Regional Chief for Quebec/Labrador Ghislain Picard said. “This is truly a landmark decision that compels us all to embark on a new course. The court has clearly sent a message that the Crown must take Aboriginal title seriously and reconcile with First Nations honourably. This decision will no doubt go down in history as one of the most important and far reaching ever rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada.”