The Soapbox: Supreme Court made right call on First Nations rights

Justin
Justin Crann
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Two and a half centuries ago the First Nations people of North America struck a deal with King George III, then the monarch of Britain

Justin Crann

That deal — the Royal Proclamation of 1763 — has since become the framework through which aboriginals and the Canadian government have resolved conflicts and determined who has rightful claim over what land.

But it was a venerable document, and 251 years of history has changed the way governments and people interact.

An update and further clarity was needed.

Thankfully, a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday has clarified exactly what the relationship should be between First Nations people and their leadership and the Government of Canada, while also creating vital legal framework within which aboriginal people can assert their ownership over ancestral lands.

The decision came in the matter of the Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, in which the Tsilhqot’in Nation was fighting to maintain its title over lands in British Columbia that were being staked out by natural resource companies and the provincial government.

In a landmark 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court declared “neither level of government (provincial or federal) is permitted to legislate in a way that results in a meaningful diminution of an Aboriginal or treaty right … the result is to protect Aboriginal and treaty rights while also allowing the reconciliation of Aboriginal interests with those of the broader society.”

In other words, provided the claim is legitimate, First Nations now have fresh and clearly-worded legal precedent behind them to make sure they are consulted in the development of their lands.

So ruled Canada’s top court.

There have been a lot of adjectives applied to the decision; historic and landmark are among the common ones.

They fit like a glove.

Here’s another one: fair.

Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, First Nations

Geographic location: Canada, British Columbia

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  • LeeEnfield
    June 28, 2014 - 14:39

    "In other words, provided the claim is legitimate, First Nations now have fresh and clearly-worded legal precedent behind them to make sure they are consulted in the development of their lands." Even before there is a declaration of Aboriginal Title both levels of government must consult and accommodate the claimed interest in the land The reasons also spoke of Treaty Rights as well saying all aboriginal rights are constitutionally protected, this ruling should apply throughout all of Canada on and off Treaty land.