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Christy Clark, First Nations leaders hold historic meeting

09/11/2014 01:26 EDT | Updated 11/11/2014 05:59 EST
B.C. Premier Christy Clark and her entire cabinet are meeting with First Nations' leaders from across the province today in Vancouver in what is being billed as an historic meeting.

The implications of the recent Tsilhqot'in ruling on aboriginal title are expected to be a major topic under discussion. Hundreds of people are expected to attend.

In her opening remarks Clark told the assembled chiefs, "We want partnerships to emerge from negotiations. Going to court for 30 years cannot be the answer."

She also called the Tsilhqot'in "graceful winners" and said, "All British Columbians can benefit from this new opportunity."

Before the meeting, Ed John, the Grand Chief of the First Nations Summit told CBC News the Supreme Court decision gives First Nations' communities new footing when dealing with the province.

"We don't need provincial legislation. What we need from them is to respect the rule of law and act on it in concert with us," said John.

John says the court decision confirming First Nations' land title puts communities in a better position to reap the rewards of resource development.

"They need to work with us. They can't simply disregard the rule of law. This is the constitution of Canada that says that aboriginal and treaty rights exists."

For her part, Clark says she is trying to turn a a legal blow for the province into a win for both government and First Nations.

Clark travelled to the Williams Lake area this week— the first time a B.C. premier has met with the Tsilhqot'in  First Nation on their territory.

The provincial government and the Tsilhqot'in signed a letter of understanding they say will set the stage for long term negotiations, with "a high-level table aimed at transforming Crown and First Nations relations in B.C."

The Tsilhqot'in judgment represents the first time in Canadian history a declaration of aboriginal title has been granted outside of a First Nations reserve.

The ruling goes beyond consultation and demands Tsilhqot'in approval before any development can proceed on its title land.

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