The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling to have aboriginal groups control and claim possession of their ancestral lands has major implications on northwest energy projects moving forward, says Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
“The courts came down in an 8-0 decision, unequivocally showing finally, after many, many decades, that First Nations rights and title on ancestral lands is important and critical for the energy development or any development at all,” said Cullen over a teleconference call last Thursday.
That morning, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin wrote in her ruling that “the right to control the land conferred by Aboriginal title means that governments and others seeking to use the land must obtain the consent of the Aboriginal title holders … If the Aboriginal group does not consent to the use, the government’s only recourse is to establish that the proposed incursion on the land is justified.”
With British Columbia home to many aboriginal villages along the proposed routes of some liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects and refineries, Cullen essentially named two methodologies each company can use and has used in negotiations with the groups in question.
“I can point to a number of projects; mining and even LNG who have made a much better effort at bringing First Nations LNG on board and those projects will be bolstered by the Supreme Court decision … those projects that have chosen the old model, the 1940s model of development … who try to simply advance projects through and didn’t think First Nations were important, this is a critical blow to their efforts,” said Cullen.
While Cullen said he doesn’t see this ruling as “the final nail in the coffin” for invasive projects that have chosen the “regressive model”, he did mention it’s a “huge victory for First Nations rights” and that he was still sifting through the 80-page ruling that had just been released.
The ruling comes right after 209 conditions were attached to the federal government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that the National Energy Board recommended to Enbridge. It also comes as both the Kitsumkalum and Gitxsan threaten to block any further progress on LNG pipelines unless government addresses and accommodates their concerns.