The recent T’silhqot’in Supreme Court decision is certainly a victory for the Indigenous peoples who fought for so long in disputing the Government’s claims that only intensive activity land areas were within the scope of T’silhqot’in peoples jurisdiction. This SCC decision has recognized a vast land base as their territory . As well, it’s significant in recognizing that Indigenous peoples have their own laws that apply to land and resources, which counters the racist doctrine of Terra Nullius (Latin for ‘land belonging to no one’). The Supreme Court held that Tsilhqot’in laws are to be given equal weight in determining land claims, and evidence was produced at trial to show that the Tsilhqot’in people had such laws. This decision applies equally to treaty claims.
– Photo by Neal Jennings
However, It would seem the Supreme Court Tsilhqot’in decision allows Federal termination tables to continue by stating Aboriginal Title “cannot be alienated except to the Crown”. The coined term “termination tables” refer to negotiation tables across Canada that involve First Nations Chiefs and government officials. According to policy analyst Russell Diabo; “Termination in this context means the ending of First Nations pre-existing sovereign status through federal Indian Act legislation, and/or coercion of First Nations into Comprehensive Land Claims and Self-Government Final Agreements that convert First Nations into municipalities, their reserves into fee simple lands and extinguishment of their Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights”. Currently there are 93 First Nations in negotiation with Harpers termination tables.
While this decision is in some ways a summation of the court’s previous rulings, it is the first to confer Aboriginal Title to a specific piece of land, and the first to define it in concrete terms.