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Canada’s high court sides with First Nations in land rights case

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Tsilhqot nationCanada's top court has sided with a British Columbia indigenous tribe in a case that could have wide-reaching implications for land disputes over traditional aboriginal territories.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday in favor of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, a tribe of 3,000 in the remote interior of the Canadian province, in a battle over a swath of land long sought for commercial logging.

The court decision hinged on the meaning of the legal term “aboriginal title,” which refers to the land rights held by aboriginal peoples as a result of long-standing use and occupancy.

Until now, the top court hadn’t made it clear how those rights could be measured.

“It’s a very historic judgment in being the first court decision to make a declaration on aboriginal title,” said Dwight Newman, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights.

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