A BC court decision means that industry will have to pay close attention to how projects may impact First Nations land, even if aboriginal title has yet to be established.
The BC Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday that companies such as miners or forestry firms must respect aboriginal territorial claims as they would any private landowner in Canada.
The three-judge panel overturned a lower court decision which prevented two northwest BC First Nations from suing Rio Tinto Alcan over the impact of the Kenney Dam upstream from their territory.
The Stellat’en and Saik’uz First Nations argue the hydro project, in operation since the 1950s, breaches their rights to a natural waterway running through their land and has damaged the Nechako River system and its fisheries.
The dam supplies water for the generating facility that powers Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat smelter.
Stellat’en Chief Archie Patrick hails the decision which will pave the way for his nation and the Saik’uz to sue the company.
Rio Tinto Alcan has 60 days to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.