Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Text Size

A Supreme road map on rights, duty

By: Editorial

Winnipeg Free Press

A Supreme Court decision Thursday has better defined what is meant, and owed to First Nations bands, by the term "aboriginal title" in this country. A long-sought victory for a collection of bands in central British Columbia has obvious implications for development on Crown land in areas not covered by treaty, most obviously the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The decision confirmed the Tsilhqot'in Nation's title to a vast tract of land around Williams Lake. It is in line with previous rulings on aboriginal rights, but it is the first time the Supreme Court has granted aboriginal title to a band.

The court stressed the need for honest recognition by both parties -- bands and governments -- of the need to respect and accommodate the interests of each when development impinges upon traditional aboriginal territory and uses, such as hunting and fishing.

The Tsilhqot'in, as with most B.C. bands, did not sign a treaty with the Crown at the time of European settlement. Some have signed settlement agreements -- modern treaties. Others have had to take their claim to court.

In 1983, the B.C. government began issuing logging rights to private firms, refusing to recognize the Tsilhqot'in claim over the remote central valley. A lower court granted the bands title, based on their historical use (rather than strictly settlement) of the land, but that was overturned on appeal. On Thursday, the Tsilhqot'in title over some 1,750 square kilometres was confirmed by the Supreme Court.

The B.C. government, or any province dealing with development of Crown lands claimed by bands without treaty, will have to make vigorous effort to win the buy-in of First Nations before proceeding with their plans.

Much of Canada, and almost all of Manitoba, is covered by treaties that ceded aboriginal title to the Crown, but native bands have claim to traditional use and interest in territory they used at time of contact. That imposes on all governments a duty to consult and accommodate those interests. Manitoba Hydro, for example, is careful to sign agreements that share the economic benefits of new generating stations with First Nations.

The Supreme Court's ruling on the Tsilhqot'in case makes clear, however, that aboriginal title does not give a band a veto on development. The court, led by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, unanimously signalled that Canada is best served when provincial and federal governments and First Nations recognize each has a responsibility to accommodate the other's interests.

Governments must notify and consult bands whose rights may be infringed upon, and try to meaningfully accommodate the concerns. The bands must negotiate to reasonably resolve their concerns.

Resolving conflicting interests in the courts is a time-intensive and ultimately regrettable way of settling disputes. The court's sage advice is particularly meaningful as Canada enters a new era of pipeline development to move its vast supply of oil and gas to markets overseas.

The Northern Gateway project has received conditional approval to construct a line across northern Alberta and B.C. to the port at Kitimat. Numerous First Nations strenuously oppose the plans, with no intent to permit the pipeline regardless of environmental protection or mitigation efforts.

The Tsilhqot'in decision serves notice those bands must come to the table and consider reasonable efforts to meet their concerns.

But it is the governments, federal and provincial, that shoulder the duty to consult and to work with the bands -- the responsibility cannot be handed off to private corporations, consultants or agencies.

The Tsilhqot'in claim to the land took more than 30 years to be recognized and now must be addressed for logging to proceed. The better way to protect the interests of all is to move expeditiously to sign land-settlement agreements with bands still without treaty.

Any band or government that would choose to hold hostage their mutual interests in protracted, expensive battles will have to answer to the courts, which now have another guide from the Supreme Court to follow.

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...

OBIDIAH

obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

JOBS

First Nations Cultural Interpreter PM – 02 Riding Mountain National Park Seasonal Indeterminate

(May to October) From $54,543 to $58,764

Closing Sept. 19, 2014

Read More

Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON

Responsibilities

Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Tue Sep 23 @ 3:00PM - 04:15PM
FNHMA National Conference 2014

EVENTS

September 2014
S M T W T F S
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
imageimageimageimageimage
cartoonscartoonscartoonscartoonscartoons

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday

 

Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins