OTTAWA – Aboriginal – National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and First Nations leaders today welcomed the Tsilhqot’in delegation that arrived in Ottawa in advance of Thursday’s hearing of the William case by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Tsilhqot’in Nation is seeking recognition and affirmation of inherent Indigenous title to their lands and territories in one of the most important Aboriginal rights cases in decades.
“It is an honour to welcome the Tsilhqot’in delegation who has travelled across this country to challenge the denial of their rights,” said National Chief Atleo. “They are fighting the same battle as many other First Nations, the battle for recognition and implementation of their rights and title essential to their Nations and essential to justice, progress and prosperity. This case will have implications for First Nations and Canadians across the country and this is why the AFN is standing with the Tsilhqot’in and actively serving as an intervenor in the case.”
More than two decades ago, the Tsilhqot’in Nation in British Columbia (BC) started direct action and legal action to gain recognition from Canada of their Aboriginal title and rights to their land. In a major precedent-setting decision in November 2007, the BC Supreme Court ruled that the Tsilhqot’in had proven Aboriginal title to approximately 200,000 square hectares (about half of the claim area) in and around the remote Nemiah Valley, south and west of Williams Lake, BC.
In June 2012, the BC Court of Appeal overturned the BC Supreme Court’s ruling. On September 24, 2012 Roger William and the Tsilhqot’in Nation sought leave to appeal the BC Court of Appeal’s decision which was granted by the Supreme Court of Canada. AFN was also granted intervention status for the Supreme Court of Canada hearing of appeal. Today, the National Chief greeted the arrival of the Indigenous Land Title Express: Tsilhqot’in Journey for Justice, a group of Elders, citizens and supporters of the Tsilhqot’in Nation who travelled from their home territory in BC to Ottawa.
National Chief Atleo stated: “As First Nations, we depend on our lands and traditional territories for our very survival – for food, for medicine, for our culture, heritage and our very identity. The William case is about putting the final nail in the coffin of the doctrine of “discovery” and the myth of terra nullius. It is about affirming recognition as essential to unlocking the clear processes to re-build the success of our Nations, our lands and our livelihoods. This is about ensuring a better future for our peoples. Today, all First Nations stand with the Tsilhqot’in Nation for the full recognition and implementation of their rights and title.”