Stockwoods intervenes in landmark Supreme Court case on aboriginal title

Stockwoods lawyer Justin Safayeni represented Amnesty International and the Canadian Friends Services Committee as interveners before the Supreme Court of Canada in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44.  The case involved a claim for aboriginal title over a tract of land in British Columbia that the Tsilhqot’in, a semi-nomadic indigenous group, had occupied exclusively since pre-sovereignty.  The British Columbia Court of Appeal had denied the land title claim on the basis that the mode of occupation and use of the land by the Tsilhqot’in was not sufficiently “intensive”, suggesting that title ought to be restricted to enclosed areas or sites where use of the land had been particularly frequent.  Before the Supreme Court, Amnesty and the CFSC argued that this narrow approach to aboriginal title was inconsistent with international human rights law and ought to be rejected.  In reasons released today, the Supreme Court agreed.  The Court unanimously overturned the appellate decision, adopted a broader approach to the test for aboriginal title, and made a declaration of aboriginal title in favour of the Tsilhqot’in.  This historic ruling represents the first time that a claim for aboriginal title has been successful.  You can read the decision here.