Land claims court ruling reshapes resource sector nationwide – by Kathryn Blaze Carlson (Globe and Mail – June 27, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — Far beyond British Columbia, where a First Nation asserted its rights to ancestral land, proponents of resource development projects will now confront a changed landscape created by the Supreme Court’s decision in the historic case.

Governments and companies eyeing mining and pipeline projects in Ontario or fracking endeavours in New Brunswick, for example, could encounter emboldened aboriginal groups asserting land claims and a right to significant consultation or, if ownership is established, a qualified requirement for consent.

On Thursday, the country’s top court said aboriginals still own their ancestral lands if they didn’t surrender them through treaties, and that governments and companies must try to obtain consent from title holders for use of the land. Importantly, the ruling also said that where ownership is asserted but hasn’t yet been established, the government needs to consult with the aboriginal group and accommodate it where appropriate.

“Fundamentally, what the court is saying is that governments and companies have to take aboriginal rights seriously,” said former Liberal MP Bob Rae, the chief negotiator for the Matawa First Nations, which is in talks with Ontario about opening their traditional land to the massive Ring of Fire mineral development.

Mr. Rae said the Treaty 9 nations he represents view the treaty as an agreement to share their land with the Crown, not surrender it. “We fully expect the governments of Ontario and Canada to respect the spirit and broader meaning of the treaty,” said Mr. Rae, reached in the remote Matawa community of Neskantaga.

First Nations leaders lauded the ruling as a victory, with Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy predicting the decision will have “implications” for major projects in the province, including the Ring of Fire and two pipelines.

In a statement, he also said fellow Ontario chiefs are “optimistic that this will have a positive impact on the Keewatin case,” a reference to a Supreme Court case challenging Ontario’s right to permit industrial logging on Grassy Narrows First Nation traditional land.

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