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Supreme Court opens the door on aboriginal land title claims

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The Northern Gateway project will likely have more court dates in its future thanks to a Supreme Court ruling today involving a BC First Nation.

In a unanimous decision called “historic,” the court has restored a ruling granting broad declaration of land title to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation.

This is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on aboriginal title and will apply wherever there are unresolved land claims, however it also ruled title is not absolute. Economic development will still be allowed, as long as two conditions are met: the consent of the First Nation or a government case for development.

With the Tsilhqot’in nation winning its claim to land in this province, other First Nations along the pipeline route now know they can launch similar claims. UBC’s Gordon Christie says that wouldn’t necessarily stop the project altogether, but could at least slow things down even further.

“What this would do is create some significant processes that would have to done in order for the project to go ahead that would probably take a bit of time to sort out.”

Even if title isn’t established, injunctions from the court could prevent construction in the meantime.

This latest development is the latest potential roadblock for the project, which already faces multiple lawsuits from BC First Nations.