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Canada's Supreme Court sides with First Nations

Governments have a legal obligation to consult with First Nations about the use of traditional territory even if aboriginal title hasn't been proven, Canada's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

The court issued two decisions involving First Nations from British Columbia. In the first case, the court said province did not adequately consult the Haida Nation before issuing a timber license on traditional land. The decision was unanimous.

In the second case, the court said the Taku River Tlingit First Nation was consulted before province approved the reopening of a road leading to a mine. The decision was also unanimous.

The court did not extend the duty to consult to private companies. In the Haida Nation case, the B.C. Court of Appeal had ruled that Weyerhaeuser Co. had an obligation.

The court did not say governments must obtain full consent from First Nations. "The Crown is not under a duty to reach an agreement; rather, the commitment is to a meaningful process of consultation in good faith," the court wrote in the Haida Nation case.

The rulings are expected to have an impact throughout Canada. Manitoba and Quebec are the only provinces that have not challenged their duty to consult.

Get the Story:
Governments must consult First Nations, says top court (CBC 11/18)
Gov't must consult with First Nations, rules Supreme Court (CBC 11/18)
Government must consult First Nations on disputed land, top court rules (CBC 11/18)
First Nations win court victory on land issues (CTV 11/18)
Landmark claims rulings made (The Globe and Mail 11/19)
B.C. companies laud top court's rulings on native consultation (The Globe and Mail 11/19)
Canadian tribes gain disputed land rights (Bloomberg News 11/19)
B.C. logging decision under review (CBC 11/19)

Get the Decisions:
Hada Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests) | Taku River Tlingit First Nation v. British Columbia (Project Assessment Director)

Relevant Links:
Supreme Court of Canada -

Related Stories:
Canada's Supreme Court to issue key rulings (11/18)
Can. Supreme Court hearing trust relationship case (03/25)
Can. Supreme Court to hear landmark trust lawsuit (03/12)
Can. Supreme Court accepts tribal consultation case (03/21)