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The Tsilhqot’in decision and the future of British Columbia

An exchange between Ken Coates and Gordon Gibson

Well, Gordon, it is easy to see where you stand on the question of Tsilhqot’in land rights:

The Supreme Court’s Tsilhqot’in Nation decision marks a very dark day for the economy of British Columbia. A new era of chaotic jockeying will open among First Nations, governments and resource proponents, casting a pall over a basic economic driver of the province.

The rest of your June 30 commentary in the Globe and Mail is not as alarmist in tone – you do make it clear that the governments of Canada and British Columbia have to take decisive action – but you are one of many observers who believe that the Tsilhqot’in judgement has the capacity to derail the economy of B.C.

I am with you on several key points. The responsibility for major movement rests with government. In this instance, the Tsilhqot’in put their faith in Canadian law and have been rewarded for their confidence in Canada. It is also clear that First Nations in British Columbia (and other nontreaty areas) have the ability to stop resource development in its tracks, through both procedural and legal means. However, I am much more confident than you that viable and sustainable solutions will be found, and sooner than you anticipate.

Let’s start with an obvious but often ignored point. The government of British Columbia earned this outcome by ignoring Aboriginal land and resource rights for generations. First Nations have been asking for decades for the British, Canadian and British Columbia governments to recognize what most other Indigenous peoples came to see as their right to recognition of their land rights and the negotiation of treaties.

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About the Author

Gordon Gibson
Gordon Gibson is the author of A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy: Respect the Collective, Promote the Individual, published by the Fraser Institute in 2009. He has served as an adviser to the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs in their treaty negotiations with the federal and British Columbia governments.


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