WATCH: Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William, who was the plaintiff in the case, says it’s a special day following the landmark ruling.
VANCOUVER – First Nations leaders in British Columbia greeted a morning announcement on aboriginal title with cheers and tears as the Supreme Court of Canada agreed the Tsilhqot’in Nation has title to a huge area in the south-central part of the province.
Union of B.C.Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says he was not expecting the ruling, and the room erupted when leaders learned of the unanimous high court decision.
B-C Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould says the decision is a “game changer” and a wake-up call for the provincial and federal government to negotiate meaningful reconciliation.
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William, who was the plaintiff in the case, says exciting days lie ahead and everyone must work together to bring First Nations to their rightful place within Canada.
The decision supports Tsilhqot’in title to a 438-square kilometre section of land in the Chilcotin region, but says title is not absolute and economic development can still proceed where title is established, as long as the First Nation consents or another compelling reason exists.
A news release from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says the federal government will study the complex ruling before determining its next steps.
WATCH: NDP MP Nathan Cullen reacts to ruling
© The Canadian Press, 2014