Cullen welcomes Supreme Court ruling on Tsilhqot’in First Nation title claim

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 26, 2014

 

VANCOUVER – Today’s historic land claim ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada has been 150 years in the making and finally confirms what Northwest BC has long believed: First Nations rights and title are fundamental, says Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley).

“I welcome this landmark ruling and the clarity it brings to land title,” Cullen told reporters in a telephone scrum this morning.

“Today’s court decision means that governments and industries cannot ignore how First Nations wish to develop their land,” Cullen noted. “If wishes are ignored, future economic opportunities could be jeopardized.”

In a unanimous decision released today, the Supreme Court granted declaration of aboriginal title to more than 1,700 square kilometres of land in British Columbia to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation. This is the first time the court has made such a ruling regarding aboriginal land. The decision also establishes what title means, including the right to use, enjoy and profit from it.

Cullen told reporters the ruling gives First Nations a strong voice in resource development, provides a welcome measure of confidence and certainty to investors, and strikes a “critical blow” to the old-style regressive practices of federal Conservatives and companies that refuse to properly consult First Nations.

“Today’s decision has a huge impact on the Harper government, which has totally ignored the need to work with First Nations,” Cullen said.   “The ruling pushes aside the whole Conservative agenda that has been built on a badly outdated model of investment and development.”

The Supreme Court today said that governments must fully consult before determining if they can infringe on title, something that will have enormous implications for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, Cullen noted. Last week’s Cabinet approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline came despite the clear opposition from over 130 First Nations.

“The government has misunderstood and abused its duty to First Nations in approving the Enbridge pipeline,” said Cullen. “Today’s ruling reinforces the fact that the government has a constitutional duty to not only hold meaningful consultations with First Nations before approving projects, but to also listen to what First Nations are saying.”

- 30 -

Contact: Shelley Browne, nathan.cullen.c1@parl.gc.ca; 250-877-4140