As The Hill Times reported in last week’s issue, the federal government’s push for an estimated $500-billion to $650-billion in resource development investment over the next decade may be on shakier ground following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision granting aboriginal title to British Columbia’s Tsilhqot’in First Nation on June 26, but it also means a stronger seat at the table for First Nations. And this is good news. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision looked at only 1,700 square kilometres of land in the B.C. Interior, but it has significant and far-reaching implications for how the Crown and industry negotiate with aboriginal communities affected by resource development on their lands, as The Hill Times’ Chris Plecash reported. The Supreme Court’s ruling reconfirmed the rights of aboriginal communities to control and benefit from their land and rejected the narrow definition that governments have used to restrict aboriginal title to the land that they physically occupy at the time of negotiating a land claim. Declared Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the unanimous decision which she wrote: “Occupation sufficient to ground aboriginal title is not confined to specific sites of settlement but extends to tracts of land that were regularly used for hunting, fishing, or otherwise exploiting resources and over which the group exercised effective control at the time of assertion of European sovereignty.” Jack Woodward, who has represented the Tsilhqot’in Nation in their fight against the B.C. government since 1989, told The Hill Times that the Supreme Court’s decision is “a huge shift in bargaining power” for aboriginal communities with unresolved land claims in Canada. “It means that if somebody wants to build a pipeline, they have to go to the government of that First Nation and ask for some of the land, and basically buy it,” Mr. Woodward told The Hill Times. “If the First Nation does not grant consent, there is an opportunity for the government—either federal or provincial—to pass legislation to expropriate the land, but that legislation will have to pass very difficult scrutiny.” Art Sterritt, executive director of B.C. Coastal First Nations, hailed the Supreme Court for rejecting what he called an “impoverished view of First Nations,” and said the decision doesn’t mean that First Nations want to stop all development. “It’s not like First Nations want to negotiate their way out of Canada. They just want to be able to negotiate so that they can have an economy,” he told The Hill Times. Ken Coates, who specializes in aboriginal rights and resource development policy at the University of Saskatchewan and is a senior fellow with the Macdonald Laurier Institute, also told The Hill Times that the Supreme Court ruling won’t be an obstacle for all resource development in Canada. “This has reset the balance a bit. It does not put First Nations people completely and totally in control, but it does give them a chance to have,” said Mr. Coates. Cabinet approved the Northern Gateway pipeline project less than two weeks before the Supreme Court’s ruling and has been tight-lipped ever since. The Supreme Court’s ruling is positive news for the Tsilhqot’in Nation and for First Nations across this country.