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Will the eviction trend spread to Alberta?

Probably not, but move by Gitxsan to block CN still sparks questions about resource projects nationwide

Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. Email Tim

Aug 6, 2014

by Tim Querengesser

Gitxsan First Nation members in northern B.C. have today made good on a July 9 eviction notice to block Canadian National Rail trains running through their land. The move and the eviction notice that preceded it come in the wake of last month’s landmark Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court ruling, which dramatically expanded the legal view of aboriginal land title in Canada. Indeed, the Gitxsan, the Tsilhqot’in First Nation and several other First Nations in B.C. have all in the past weeks made strong moves to block or restrict resource projects that they feel have not gained their consent.

The push-back naturally raises questions about land agreements between industry and aboriginal groups both in Alberta and Canada as a whole. About half of the country’s land mass is claimed by aboriginal groups, with title either roughly settled through modern land-claim, traditional aboriginal title or a historic treaty. There is, however, a caveat: after the Tsilhqot’in ruling, this blog examined the differences for B.C. – a province where the federal government never settled land treaties with indigenous peoples who inhabited the area before European settlement – and the rest of Canada, which is almost completely covered by historic and modern treaties.

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Still, questions about the power of the Supreme Court decision in Canada will surely not be answered any time soon. “After the Tsilhqot’in decision, the ball is in our court,” Gitxsan hereditary chief Norman Stephens told the Globe and Mail. “We have full control over it.” What does this mean for Alberta, where historic and modern aboriginal treaties are in place? The answer could be very little as a result of those treaties. Or, it could be that the answer hinges on what Tsilhqot’in means for aboriginal consent to the Northern Gateway project in B.C., which would affect Alberta’s interests.

Time, as they say, will tell.

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