Roundup 2016: BC Minister Rustad encourages industry, First Nations to ‘build relationships’ – by Lesley Stokes (Northern Miner – February 1, 2016)

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VANCOUVER — B.C.’s Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad said at this year’s Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver that the provincial government is working with First Nations groups to better define their participation in resource development in the province.

“Our constitution has a clause in it that says aboriginal people have rights including title to the land,” Rustad said. “But it didn’t define what that means exactly. So over the years, courts have been coming down with some rulings and have given some definition to what this means.”

He referenced the precedent-setting Tsilhqot’in decision in June 2014, when the Supreme Court of Canada awarded primary control of nearly 1,900 sq. km of the land base in south central B.C. to the small Tsilhqot’in First Nation, based on their continuous, semi-nomadic use of the land over many centuries.
Since then, Rustad says the B.C. government has been working diligently towards understanding how to “bring life to the title area.”

“For the past 18 months we’ve been working with them on how we do things as simple as building roads, and who is responsible for those things,” he said. “We’re working on that but we’re also taking it a step further for the rest of the Tsilhqot’in Nation at how that relationship looks like going forward … and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to build an agreement with them in the near future to help them lay out that foundation.”

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