OKANAGAN – Governments, industries and Okanagan first nations are all weighing their options following a precedent setting decision by the Supreme Court of Canada Thursday.
The court upheld the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s claim to aboriginal title on land in their traditional territory.
“The whole Okanagan Nation has a claim to approximately 69-thousand square kilometers,” says Chief Robert Louie of the Westbank First Nation, “Those lands are our traditional lands, our ancestral lands.”
Louie is looking for recognition of aboriginal title over those lands.
He says first nations now need to agree with the federal and provincial governments on exactly what aboriginal title means.
“What will be doing to benefit from things like revenue sharing for example,” said Louie.
He says first nations have two options to get the clarity they are seeking.
Louie says the first is to let the courts decide exactly where aboriginal title exists, “or it can be the route of negotiations. I think the later is preferred by most groups that I know of and I suspect that will be the preferred route for us.”
The Westbank First Nation and other aboriginal groups planning to take time to discuss before deciding on how to move forward.