Last June the Supreme Court of Canada made what is called by many the most important ruling on Aboriginal rights in Canadian history. I am talking about the Tsilhqot’in decision over a territorial claim in the Nemaiah Valley.
The Supreme Court granted aboriginal land title to 1,700 square kilometres of territory, which not only changes the relationship between the Tsilhqot’in people and the provincial government, but also has far ranging implications for land use across British Columbia.
Like many, Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation minister John Rustad was unsure of the implications at first, but then soon realized the decision presented an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
“For too long, First Nations have not really been participating in the economy,” Mr. Rustad said. “What the Tsilhqot’in case will do is give us an opportunity to work with nations and see what title looks like on the land base.” In other words, we can now put 150 years of uncertainty behind us and take a more confident stance with First Nations in working to create development opportunities.
That is exactly what the government is doing. B.C. is the only province to share direct provincial mineral tax revenue generated from new mines or expansions. First Nations are also negotiating carbon offsets directly with LNG companies and creating a whole new revenue stream to benefit their own communities. Closer to home the High Bar Band just reached a cooperation and benefits agreement with mineral exploration company HDI Constantia regarding the development of the Maggie Copper-Molybdenum mine located between Cache Creek and Clinton.
We’re working to create a broader dialogue and work collaboratively with First Nations while still meeting industry’s needs. The more certain we are moving forward, the greater opportunity we all will have to benefit from a resource rich British Columbia.
Jackie Tegart, MLA