OTTAWA - A historic decision by the Supreme Court of Canada has restored a ruling that granted a broad declaration of land title to a British Columbia First Nation.
The unanimous 8-0 decision will essentially make it easier for First Nations to establish title over a broad tracts of land that were regularly used for hunting, fishing and other activities.
The ruling is the Supreme Court's first on aboriginal title and will apply wherever there are unresolved land claims.
But the top court also ruled title is not absolute, saying economic development can still go ahead on land where title is established, as long as one of two conditions is met.
Economic development on land where title is established would require the consent of the First Nation or, failing that, the government would have to make the case that development is pressing and substantial and it meets its fiduciary duty to the aboriginal group.
That essentially puts a greater burden on governments to justify economic development on aboriginal land.