26 June 2014

The Supreme Court of Canada's Decision in the Roger William Case: The Common Law, Aboriginal Title, and Reconciliation

Whatever our reservations about the capacity of the common law to do justice to Aboriginal peoples, we should not lay blame on the common law for the British Columbia Court of Appeal's decision in the Roger William case. Although the Court of Appeal invoked the common law in advancing an approach to Aboriginal title that every First Nation in Canada subsequently found abhorrent, in reality it relied on considerations extrinsic to the common law to justify its desired conclusions. We won't know until later this morning, when the Supreme Court of Canada releases its reasons for decision in the William case, whether the Court has seen through the Court of Appeal's talk of the common law. At stake is not only whether Aboriginal title has any remaining value in the struggle for the reconciliation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada but also whether the reconciliation achieved may be genuine and just.

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