The Law and PrecedentS

Background

As with most Supreme Court cases, arguments in the Tsilhqot’in case drew on several previous cases that established important legal precedents.  Below are several short excerpts and quotes from those earlier cases or decisions that capture some of precedents established before the Tsilhqot’in sought title in court.  Those decisions shaped both the way the cases was tried and the decisions by the Court.  The language from the court is, not surprisingly, quite formal, but the passages are short enough that students can work together in class to capture essential ideas.

Calder case of 1973

    •    Nisga’a First Nation (formerly written as Nishga) sought title in court.  Though they lost, the case established several key precedents.
    •    It established that First Nations title existed before any contact with Europeans.
    •    It established that title came from First Nations continuous occupation of the land.

Meares Island Case of 1984

    •    Nuu-cha-nulth blocked MacMillian-Blodel from access to logging on Meares Island
    •    Province said this was illegal as the land was Crown land.
    •    Nuu-cha-nulth argued that allowing logging interfered with aboriginal title and requested a court injunction until there was a ruling, which the BC Supreme Court denied
    •    BC Court of Appeal provided injunction but then the case was adjourned by agreement of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, MacMillan Bloedel, and the governments of British Columbia and Canada.  Logging stopped.
    •    Judge Seaton noted that the right to use the land for hunting, fishing, etc. described in various treaties would be impossible to exercise if logging occurred.

Delgamuukw v. British Columbia

    •    The Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en Nation sought title to a large area of British Columbia.
    •    They did not win, but several important precedents were set.
    •    The court established that oral history was a valid form of evidence.  
    •    The court created a ‘test’ for establishing First Nations’ title to the land.

Resources

There are short quotes/excerpts from the court cases themselves below.  

  1. Classroom Activity Instructions
  2. Readings
  • These are also linked to the original court transcripts if you want to provide more background information or extension activities to students.  There are also links to other background documents or summaries of the decisions if you want additional resources.

If you are a student working through the site and lessons on your own, you can still complete all of the activities and do the readings. They are set up for small groups but you can just
follow the activity instructions on your own.