Monday, July 07, 2014

Canada's supreme court decision, or aren't we all indigenous to this planet?

On June 26, 2014 Canada's Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on aboriginal title. In my opinion this was a very wise decision, and there is at least one part of this decision that I think merits global consideration. In brief, the Supreme Court decision subjects Aboriginal title to a responsibility to group interest and the enjoyment of the land by future generations. To me, this is perfectly appropriate but begs the question: why are non-aboriginal governments not held to this standard? I'd like to suggest that this concept should be expanded - to continue to recognize aboriginal title, but also to look at the world's entire human population as indigenous to the planet, and hold every government everywhere accountable for making decisions in the collective interest and for the benefit of future generations - and to include water along with land.

Quote from the Supreme Court decision:
The nature of Aboriginal title is that it confers on the group that holds it the exclusive right to decide how the land is used and the right to benefit from those uses, subject to the restriction that the uses must be consistent with the group nature of the interest and the enjoyment of the land by future generations.  Prior to establishment of title, the Crown is required to consult in good faith with any Aboriginal groups asserting title to the land about proposed uses of the land and, if appropriate, accommodate the interests of such claimant groups. The level of consultation and accommodation required varies with the strength of the Aboriginal group’s claim to the land and the seriousness of the potentially adverse effect upon the interest claimed. 

Citation Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44
Date: 20140626
Docket: 34986 

Updated July 8 to correct spelling of "indigenous". Thanks to Douglas Carrall for spotting the error and letting me know.