In 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada , in a landmark ruling called the Tislhqot’in decision , held that the Tislhqot’in nation had title to a piece of land in north east BC. This was the first time that title had been granted to a piece of land to a aboriginal group in the history of Canada. Obviously, this was a historic decision. In rendering the decision the court enlarged the definition of what constitutes occupation by aboriginal people, one of the criteria for establishing title, and in granting title set a high bar for development to be conducted on the titled land. Bottom line is that in areas like BC where treaty land does not exist all land has the potential for a title challenge . This, of course, increases the risks for developers . And where title land is declared any development on that land faces several difficult hurdles.
Now the Supreme Court of Canada has validated a decision by the BC Court of Appeal whereby aboriginal groups can litigate against private parties concerning past development on land that is being claimed as titled land. Title has not been proven just claimed and this alone entitles an aboriginal group to litigate damages . And up to now ligation could only be brought against Governments not private parties.
The Fraser Institute has done a great job explaining this decision and I highly recommend it to anyone interested . It is an easy read and the issues are explained clearly. The Fraser Institute article is entitled : Economic Development in Jeopardy? Implications of the Saik’uz First Nation and Stellat’en First Nation v. Rio Tinto Descision.
It will be interesting to seen the fallout from this decision especially how it impacts upon Rio Tinto in the specifics of this decision and importantly how it will impact in the larger context of economic development , especially in BC , for past and future economic development.
One thing for sure it will not be easier to do resource development in BC going forward, rather greater uncertainity looms.