New Democrat leader John Horgan and aboriginal relations and reconciliation critic Doug Donaldson made the following statement on today’s historic Supreme Court of Canada decision that the Tsilhqot’in have Aboriginal title over lands in their traditional territory.
“Reconciling with First Nations is a matter of fundamental justice. It is essential to ensuring British Columbians can move forward together and current and future generations of Aboriginal British Columbians can have lives of greater security, independence and opportunity in thriving communities. Reconciliation is essential to developing B.C.’s economy in a balanced way that benefits all communities and protects B.C.’s air, land, water and wildlife.
“We congratulate and say sechanalyagh to the Xeni Gwet’in and Tsilhqot’in people on their success after 25 years of struggle for recognition of their Aboriginal title.
“It was a serious failing of the B.C. government that the Tsilhqot’in were not properly consulted or accommodated when they asserted title in their traditional areas—even after the clear direction of the country’s highest court, including in the historic 1997 Delgamuukw case.
“It was a serious failure of successive B.C. Liberal governments to ignore Mr. Justice Vickers’ clear direction in 2007 that Aboriginal title had been proven on the land and that British Columbia must negotiate with the Tsilhqot’in on the implications of that legal reality. Instead, the B.C. Liberal government wasted millions of scarce tax dollars and created seven more years of uncertainty for investors and communities, by blindly pursuing a legal theory that was unanimously and soundly rejected today by the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We are all called upon to deal with the social and economic disadvantages of B.C.’s historical failure to reconcile with Aboriginal people. We are called upon to move forward and resolve in good faith the implications on the land of Aboriginal title—with give and take on all sides. The province must immediately engage in such discussions with the Xeni Gwet’in and Tsilhqot’in and Canada before more time is lost or money and opportunity wasted. Moreover, the government must convene a broader working group with Canada and B.C. First Nations to establish how the combination of indigenous, provincial and federal laws will apply on title lands.”