Joy in Mudville, Canadian Supreme Court Grants Title to the Tsilhqot'in Nation in Historic Case

Chief Roger William of Xeni Gwet'in speaks about the SCOC decision on aboriginal land title 

First Nations leaders were jubilant and more than a bit surprised this morning by the clarity and scope of the Supreme Court of Canada's precedent setting decision today recognizing an aboriginal title claim to land for which there is no treaty - land that was never ceded. Most First Nations communities in B.C. never signed treaties or land agreements, but the band argued it could claim title because the band has traditionally occupied the land since before European settlers arrived.

The unanimous ruling, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, also said all economic projects on traditional Aboriginal territories will now require “consent” as well as consultation before they proceed. Reacting to the decision Thursday, Tsilhqot'in Nation Chief Roger William [pictured above] said, "Once the first people of this country have title, then only good things are going to come. We have come from our land, we come from our people, from our history. We are part of the land."

The Vancouver Sun's article 'Landmark Supreme Court ruling grants land title to B.C. First Nation' says, "A room full of surprised veteran B.C. Aboriginal leaders erupted in “cheers and tears” after the Supreme Court of Canada, in the most important aboriginal rights case in the country’s history, ruled that the Tsilhqot’in First Nation has title 1,750 square kilometres of land in south central B.C."

Aboriginal title isn't absolute, but the ruling means agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydroelectric or pipeline development proposed for the area will require consent from the Tsilhqot'in Nation. One of the lawyers who worked on the Tsilhqot'in case, David Rosenberg, of Woodward and Company Lawyers, said, "This is a majorly important precedent with far-reaching implications for other First Nations."

Congratulations are rolling in from First Nations and environmental groups all across Canada and beyond. Everyone, including the mr. mud, understands the huge difference between the words 'consultation' and 'consent'. Before today's decision the governments and industry simply had to have some meaningless meeting with a First Nation and claim that as the required consultation, which is what they did time and time again, to fulfill their legal obligations was met. Now, it's a new ballgame.

For sure the Harper government, the provincial governments and corporate 'developers' will be using every type of bribery and every lie they can think of to convince First Nations to grant their consent on all the present controversial projects in western Canada, including the Northern Gateway, the Kinder-Morgan Expansion, Site C and B.C.'s fracking/LNG nightmare. But given the strong opposition of First Nations groups who now have the right to title and control of lands that each of this projects requires to proceed, this is a great day for trillions of living creatures, for the future non-renewable fresh water resources, or the air we all breathe and the futures of our children and grandchildren.

Of course, the war isn't over, but it sure feels good to win even one battle for a change. The billionaires and their corrupted government lackeys won't just quit, they'll wiggle and squirm and try other tactics. The already fast paced expansion of 'pipelines by rail' will quicken, so will the movement of tar sands crud and other heavy oils by truck and the pipelines that go directly from Alberta to the U.S. on existing rights of way will be expanded as fast as possible.

As Adam Brandt, an energy expert at Stanford University, pointed out recently, “With growing global demand, the economic pressure to develop unconventional resources is enormous and not going away. Can environmental groups expect to win a series of fights for decades to come, when the economic forces are aligned very strongly against them in each round? The answer is obvious: no. The emphasis should be on demand, not supply."

This morning my inbox was alive with perhaps more enthusiasm and joy from every quarter than ever before. So today there's joy in Mudville because we're all - flora, fauna, microbes, minerals, forces and faeries - in this together. And untold trillions of our cousins will live another while in harmony with the Great Mother of us all.