B.C.’s Chambers pass policy representing the public interest regarding First Nations title

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Prince George, May 26, 2015 – Business leaders from across B.C. have passed a policy calling for the province to publicly state how it will use the public interest rights and obligations afforded by the supreme court of Canada with respect to aboriginal title and land claims.

“A declaration from the provincial government is imperative, by not managing expectations in regard to public interest and First Nations rights can plant seeds of discord, creating uncertainty for investors.” said John Winter, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

A body of jurisprudence, including the recent Tsilhqot’in decision of the Supreme Court of Canada clarifies First Nations title rights.  They provide a framework for government, industry and First Nations to address these.  Such clarifications should increase certainty for investors and the public.

“The implications of silence are clear,” said Winter, “international investors are being advised to avoid investing in British Columbia because of the uncertainties surrounding this issue.” 

Speakers at a March 2015 ‘Mines and Money’ conference in Hong Kong specifically advised investors not to invest in Canada or B.C because of the Tsilhqot’in decision.

The ability to attract investment opportunities depends upon establishing certainty surrounding First Nations land and title issues, the public interests and government’s ability to respond and reconcile such issues in a timely, fair and just manner.

The policy: Representing the Public Interest Regarding First Nations Title, calls on the provincial government to:

  • Acknowledge and accept that the courts have given the province the right to uphold public interest rights where justified in the public interest in accordance with long-established legal principles in matters of aboriginal title;
  • Develop a plan and institutional process for how to uphold public interest rights in regard to First Nations interest;
  • Pro-actively manage public interest expectations in regard to First Nations and the appropriate guidance provided by the jurisprudence, and
  • Publicly state how it will use the public interest rights and obligations afforded it by the courts with respect to aboriginal title and land claims in asserted territories.

This policy was passed at the BC Chamber Annual General Meeting & Conference, the province’s foremost business gathering, held this year in Prince George May 24-26.