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B.C. First Nation’s land claim headed for Supreme Court

Fish Lake, B.C., falls in the territory claimed by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation.

Sibylle Zilker/The Globe and Mail

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case involving a B.C. First Nation that will see the top court once again examine the complex issue of aboriginal land claims.

The court has granted leave to appeal to the Tsilhqot'in (sill-COAT-teen) First Nation, which has been in and out of court since the 1990s asserting aboriginal title over a large area of land it considers its traditional territory.

Courts in B.C. gave the Interior native band rights to hunt, trap and trade in over 440,000 hectares of land, but rejected the group's claim to aboriginal title.

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The B.C. Appeal Court denied the claim because the Tsilhqot'in were asserting ownership over a broad territory, rather than identifying specific sites where its people once lived.

When the Tsilhqot'in lost in B.C.'s highest court, the community vowed to appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada has now agreed to hear the case.

The case could have implications in B.C., which is currently negotiating modern-day treaties with its First Nations, as well as throughout Canada, where some land claims remain in dispute.

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