Assembly of First Nations Continues Calls for Recognition and Implementation of Title and Rights, Responds to BC Court of Appeal Decision

OTTAWA, June 27, 2012 /CNW/ - Following a decision out of the British Columbia (BC) Court of Appeal today, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo expressed his full support for the Tsilhqot'in Nation and all First Nations in continuing to pursue recognition and implementation of their Title and rights.

"First Nations across Canada stand in support of the Tsilhqot'in Nation in unrelentingly pursuing justice, and I commend their leadership in advancing affirmation and recognition as a broader priority for all First Nations," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. " First Nations will continue to stand together, united in pursuing full recognition of Title and rights to achieve justice, fairness and driving our own solution building sustainable futures for our peoples and communities to thrive."

Today's decision upholds recognition from the 2007 ruling of Tsilhqot'in rights and the unjust infringement by British Columbia's forestry regime.  However, Tsilhqot'in take issue with the Court of Appeal's view that Aboriginal title is limited to small 'postage-stamp' areas that does not protect the hunting, trapping and gathering areas that have sustained their Nation since time immemorial.  This impoverished view of Aboriginal title is completely unacceptable. This legal test is based on ethnocentric views of land tenure and occupancy.  It is an impoverished view of Aboriginal title that is completely unacceptable and inconsistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"First Nations will continue to press for full recognition of our title and rights both domestically and internationally," said AFN BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould. "It is only a matter of time before we see the first declaration of Aboriginal title in BC. By failing to grant a declaration of title for the Tsilhqot'in due to legal technicalities and a disagreement with the trial judge as to the scope and extent of the lands to be declared, the BC Court of Appeal has only delayed the inevitable. " Wilson-Raybould continued, "Our thanks go out to the Tsilhqot'in people for continuing this fight and opening the door further so that one day all our Nations will be able to reconcile their Aboriginal title with Crown title. While the Tsilhqot'in decision is appealed and other cases are ongoing, the hard work of rebuilding our Nations continues in our communities with the strength of knowing that title to our lands is intact and our Aboriginal rights protected."

"First Nations will continue to stand in full support of the Tsilhqot'in. First Nations are forced to take their claims to court because of the failure of the current federal policies such as the comprehensive claims policy," said National Chief Atleo. "These claims will only be settled if the federal government works with us to reform the comprehensive claims policy to bring it in line with the fact that our rights are recognized and affirmed in the Constitution."

The case between the Tsilhqot'in First Nation and the provincial and federal governments was prompted by logging activity and has been making its way through the courts for more than 20 years.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow us on Twitter @AFN_Updates and @AFN_Comms.

SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

For further information:

Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca

Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca

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