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Canada aboriginals score huge win in land title court case
by Randall Palmer

Reuters    Translate This Article
26 June 2014

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Aboriginals in British Columbia can stake a broad claim to their traditional territory in a landmark victory at the Supreme Court of Canada under a decision that natural resource companies had warned would create investor uncertainty.

The case involved a claim to 1,750 sq km (676 sq miles) of land in central part of the Pacific province of British Columbia. The Supreme Court ruled that aboriginal groups were entitled to prevent forestry in this particular tract.

It overturned an appeals court decision which had restricted aboriginals to having title only in the small areas where they had proven continuous and intensive physical use. However, while allowing the aboriginal groups in this case to ban commercial logging, it said that the government can allow resource projects to go ahead—even if they infringe aboriginal title—in some cases where there is 'a compelling and substantial public interest.' The decision adds conditions which would be expected to make it more difficult, but not necessarily impossible, for everything from pipelines and mines and forestry to proceed without aboriginal consent.

There are no new pipelines being proposed to pass through this particular area. Enbridge Inc's planned Northern Gateway pipeline route lies well to the north.

It marked the first time the Supreme Court of Canada recognized aboriginal title to a specific piece of land, and would have application predominantly in resource-rich British Columbia, where there are unresolved land claims. The name of the case is Tsilhqot'in Nation vs British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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