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First Nations in British Columbia secure land rights in court and treaty negotiations
A seventeen year and $30 million legal battle ended on Wednesday, November 21 for six Tsilhqot'in First Nations from central British Columbia, Canada with a judicial ruling that granted them title and control of over 2,000 square kilometers of traditional territory.
Also on November 21st, five Vancouver Island First Nations leaders signed a treaty granting them resource royalty payments of $1.2 million a year for 25 years, and a land transfer of 245 square kilometers. First Nations leaders hailed the decision as a victory, allowing them to reclaim their rights to determine and manage their own lands, as reported in an article from The Canadian Press.
The Tsilhqot'in decided to pursue their right to their traditional lands through the legal system due to deep distrust in the treaty process that dates back to 1864, when six war chiefs were hanged despite their attempted participation in treaty negotiations. The court ruling, although likely to be appealed, states that the province cannot carry on with plans to clearcut log the forests because it infringes on the First Nations' rights to hunting and trapping. Rather, land-use agreements relating to logging and mining must be done in consultation with First Nations before action can be taken.
Despite this landmark ruling, the judge urged the Tsilhqot'in First Nations leaders to negotiate land use with the other parties in the event of an appeal and overturned ruling.
The Vancouver Island First Nations believed a treaty was their best option because it saved millions of dollars in legal fees, while freeing them from the "burden of bureaucracy," and giving them more revenue and resources. They are glad that the treaty is expected to be ratified quickly by the legislature and the House of Commons.
Read more on the court decision in favor of the Tsilhqot'in First Nations here.
Posted By Alexandra O'Brien at 8:58am on December 07, 2007
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