Tsilhqot’in Nation welcomes recognition of full aboriginal title for the first time in Canadian history

Photo from http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/brent-patterson/2013/11/council-canadians-supports-tsilhqotin-nation-supreme-court

Photo from http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/brent-patterson/2013/11/council-canadians-supports-tsilhqotin-nation-supreme-court

 

By Tsilhqot’in Nation, June 26, 2014. Source: Intercontinental Cry

The Tsilhqot’in Nation welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision overruling the BC Court of Appeal’s judgment on Aboriginal title. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the 2007 ruling of the BC Supreme Court and declared Aboriginal title to approximately 2000 km2 in the heart of the Tsilhqot’in homeland, in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of British Columbia.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling ends a long history of denial and sets the stage of recognition of Aboriginal title in its full form. Rejecting the BC Court of Appeal’s impoverished view of title as specific, intensely used sites is a step towards true and lasting reconciliation for all First Nations. The Tsilhqot’in Nation has worked tirelessly with many organizations to make this a reality.

“We take this time to join hands and celebrate a new relationship with Canada. We are reminded of our elders who are no longer with us. First and foremost we need to say sechanalyagh (thank you) to our Tsilhqot’in Elders, many of whom testified courageously in the courts. We are completing this journey for them and our youth. Our strength comes from those who surround us, those who celebrate with us, those who drum with us” said Plaintiff, Chief Roger William of Xeni Gwet’in.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief William states, “First Nations across this country have taken legal action, entered into treaty, practiced their language and demonstrated use of the land and through this they have supported us – we thank you. Non-First Nation organizations and First Nation organizations are adamant in helping us and we are grateful. We are especially grateful for the support we received from our neighbors, the non-Aboriginal residents and businesses in the title area, who intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada to say that they welcomed a declaration of Aboriginal title. These organizations have been interveners and in general support – sechanalyagh.”

“Under our own laws and teachings there is no question that these are our lands. This is the end of denying rights and title. We met the legal test in 2007 and that should have been the end of it. This decision will bring much needed certainty for First Nations, government and industry. This case is about us regaining our independence – to be able to govern our own Nation and rely on the natural resources of our land. We are ready to move forward in this new relationship with government and industry. That work starts today” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tl’etinqox Government, Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chairman.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs stated “amazing, absolutely amazing! Thank you Tsilhqot’in for your courageous leadership, temerity and relentless tenacity! The Supreme Court of Canada completely repudiated the greatly impoverished and highly prejudicial positions of the BC and Federal governments which formed the basis of the BC Court of Appeal decision. As parties supporting the Tsilhqot’in in this case, we worked collectively to ensure the Supreme Court of Canada would understand that recognizing Indigenous Title and Rights do not diminish Canadian society, it enriches it. Let us celebrate this momentous and historical victory!”

BCAFN Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould stated, “This decision is a game changer. The court has clearly sent a message that the Crown must take Aboriginal title seriously and reconcile with First Nations honourably.” She continued, “The decision is an opportunity to truly settle, once and for all, the land question in BC – where our Nations are not simply making claims to the Crown under an outdated federal policy but where there must be true reconciliation based on recognition and where the outcome of negotiations is certain. On behalf of the First Nations in British Columbia, heartfelt congratulations to the Tsilhqot’in people.”

This decision needs to be acknowledged as a positive step forward in reconciliation between the government and First Nations. Resolving Aboriginal title reduces conflict, creates the opportunity for respectful relations and ends an era of denial. We stand in solidarity with all other First Nations and Indigenous people globally in the necessity of resolving land claims and moving forward.

First Nation Leadership Stands United With Tsilhqot’in Nation’s Opposition to Taseko Mines’ Controversial New Prosperity Mine

Source: Intercontinental Cry

Representatives of the First Nations Leadership Council, the BC Assembly of First Nations and the Tsilhqot’in Nation providing public comment in advance of the Federal Review Panel for the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine project. The public hearing will begin in Williams Lake, B.C. on July 22, 2013, and will be completed within approximately 30 days.

“We are glad to work in solidarity with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit and the BC Assembly of First Nations on these issues of national importance as they affect Aboriginal people across Canada. We will be at the Supreme Court of Canada on November 7, 2013 for our Title Case and yet still we start panel hearings for the proposed Prosperity mine July 22, 2013. This proposed mine is within the Tsilhqot’in claim area and has already been denied once by the Minister of Environment. This is precedent setting and we will not back down,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. “Our own experience with this company, Taseko Mines Ltd., should inspire First Nations to stand up for your land, not cave in to industry and to express that development has to be on our terms – we need a meaningful say on our land and bad projects should not proceed in an area as sensitive and culturally important as Teztan Biny.”

“The Tsilhqot’in Nation has demonstrated extreme patience – we have said we are not opposed to economic development, but that this is the wrong project, in the wrong place and it cannot be approved,” stated Chief Roger William of Xeni Gwet’in “We will share with the Panel our unchangeable values and express our deep concerns of the threat to Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and the contamination of our lakes and streams. We firmly believe that like the last Panel, this review will demonstrate the extremely high risk that such a mine poses in such a sacred place.”

BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould remarked “Yesterday’s provincial Throne Speech spoke of securing non-treaty economic benefit agreements, finalizing long-term treaties and seeking additional revenue-sharing agreements. We all want opportunities for economic development but not at all costs. Our culture and lands are vitally critical to the health and well-being of our communities.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said “This bad project is one of the first to be forced through the now gutted federal environmental review process borne out of the Harper Government’ omnibus bills C-38 and C-45. If this review fails to come to the same conclusion as the last one, then we’ll know that the changes to the EA process are indeed about approving disastrous and unscrupulous projects over the objections of First Nations and the general public and at the great expense to the environment.”

Robert Phillips, member of the Political Executive of the First Nations Summit, stated “This is also a test case of the federal government’s commitment to First Nations Title, Rights and Treaty Rights. If spending 20 years in court proving our rights means nothing at the end of the day, then we only see conflict on the ground.”

For further comment please contact:
Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair
Tsilhqot’in National Government 250-392-3918

Chief Roger William
Xeni Gwet’in 250-392-3918

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs 604-684-0231

Colin Braker, Communications Director
First Nations Summit 604-926-9903