TŜILHQOT'IN TERRITORY, BC, Jan. 24, 2013 /CNW/ - The Supreme Court of
Canada announced today that it will hear the Tsilhqot'in Nation's
landmark Aboriginal title claim, a decision welcomed by the Tsilhqot'in
Nation and its members.
"We are truly grateful for the many Tsilhqot'in Elders that showed the
courage to share their knowledge at trial, in our Tsilhqot'in
language," said Councillor Roger William, the plaintiff in the case,
"Many of them are no longer with us today. They would be proud and
honoured to know that their case will be heard by the highest court in
This is the latest stage in a court battle sparked over two decades ago
when Tsilhqot'in communities took to blockades and the courts to halt
plans for clear-cut logging in the heart of Tsilhqot'in territory, in
south central British Columbia. After five years and over 300 days of
trial, the B.C. Supreme Court found in favour of the Tsilhqot'in Nation
in November 2007, declaring Aboriginal hunting, trapping and trade
rights throughout the entire claimed area, and striking down the
forestry plans. The B.C. Supreme Court also held that the Tsilhqot'in
Nation had proven Aboriginal title - something akin to ownership rights
- to approximately 40% of this remote, wilderness area.
In June 2012, the B.C. Court of Appeal fully confirmed the Aboriginal
hunting, trapping and trade rights of the Tsilhqot'in people and barred
wide-scale industrial logging in the region.
However, the Court of Appeal also set aside the trial judge's findings
of Aboriginal title, holding that Aboriginal title can be established
only to specific, intensively used sites, and not the core hunting and trapping grounds that were exclusively
controlled and used by the Tsilhqot'in, year after year, to sustain
"We never gave up our rights or title and further proved our Aboriginal
rights and stopped forestry in that critical part of our homeland.
That is something to celebrate," said Marilyn Baptiste, Chief of Xeni
Gwet'in. "But this is not complete for our people. At the Supreme
Court, we will continue to tackle the most important issue for us and
for ALL First Nations - our Aboriginal title to the land".
This landmark case promises to be historic. First Nations across Canada
denounced the Court of Appeal's judgment on Aboriginal title as
outdated and discriminatory.
"For us, the Court of Appeal denied the legitimacy of our laws, our ways
of life, who we are as Tsilhqot'in people," said Chief Joe Alphonse,
Tribal Chairman and Chief of Tl'etinqox-t'in community, "We're grateful
to have the opportunity to present to the Supreme Court of Canada a
different path to reconciliation. And we are honoured to stand with the
support of First Nations across British Columbia and Canada. Together,
our voices will be heard at last".
SOURCE: Tsilhqot'in National Government
For further information:
Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman Cell: (250) 305-8282
Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Chief - Xeni Gwet'in Cell: (250) 267-1401
Councillor Roger William, Plaintiff Cell: (250) 267-6593
David Rosenberg, Legal Counsel Cell: (604) 562 6714 Work: (604) 879 4505