The appellants are representative of the Nishga Tribe of British Columbia. They claim that the aboriginal title over a piece of land in British Columbia that had been present before Confederation had never been extinguished, and that the tribe therefore still had title to the land. This claim was denied at trial and upheld at appeal.
- Do the alleged aboriginal land claims exist?
- If the claims exist, were they extinguished?
At trial and upon initial appeal the courts decided that if there ever was aboriginal title, it was surely extinguished upon confederation. The Supreme Court holds that aboriginal title definitely exists, however they were split over whether or not it had been extinguished. The majority decided that it has been extinguished by virtue of the government's exercise of control over the lands, and therefore the appeal is dismissed. However, the dissenting judges disagree and state that more must be present to prove that the lands were extinguished. They say that the provincial government did not have any constitutional right to deal with the land of the aboriginals, and that their predecessors before confederation did not do anything that could amount to extinguishing the lands.
- Recognition of aboriginal title.
- Aboriginal land claims are extinguished once government exercises control over the lands.