Vancouver: In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s claim to aboriginal title over the Nemiah Valley.

For  centuries   the  Tsilhqot’in  Nation,  a  semi-nomadic  grouping  of  six bands sharing common culture and  history,  have lived  in a remote valley bounded by rivers and  mountains in central British Columbia.   It is one of hundreds of indigenous groups in B.C. with unresolved land claims.  In 1983, B.C.  granted  a  commercial logging  license  on  land  considered  by  the  Tsilhqot’in  to  be  part  of their  traditional territory.    The band objected and sought a declaration prohibiting commercial logging on the land.    Talks with the province reached an impasse and the original land claim was amended to include a claim for Aboriginal title to the land at issue on behalf of all Tsilhqot’in people. The  federal  and  provincial  governments  opposed  the  title claim. The   Supreme   Court   of  British   Columbia   held   that   occupation   was established  for  the  purpose  of proving  title  by showing regular and  exclusive use of sites or  territory  within the claim area,  as well as to  a small area outside that area. Applying a narrower test based on site-specific occupation requiring proof that the Aboriginal group’s  ancestors  intensively  used  a  definite tract of land  with reasonably defined  boundaries  at  the  time  of European  sovereignty,  the  British Columbia Court of Appeal held that the Tsilhqot’in  claim to title had not been established.The Supreme Court held  the appeal that a  declaration of Aboriginal title over  the  area  requested  should  be  granted. A  declaration  that  British  Columbia breached its duty to consult owed to the Tsilhqot’in  Nation should  also be granted.