Sam v. British Columbia

The Supreme Court of British Columbia released a decision on September 23, 2014 in Sam v. British Columbia, dismissing the application of Chief Robert Sam on behalf of the Songhees Nation for an order directing the defendants British Columbia and Canada to negotiate with the plaintiffs in an effort to resolve their ongoing litigation.

This application arises in the context of litigation brought by the Songhees Nation and the Esquimalt Nation against the federal and provincial Crown for breach of a treaty signed in 1850 with respect to southern Vancouver Island. The action is set for trial and is expected to require 80 days for the first of two phases. The federal government was willing to discuss possible settlement of this matter whereas the province was not and denies any liability in the action. Chief Sam brought this application on the basis of references in the Supreme Court of Canada's 2014 Tsilhqot'in decision, stating that governments are under "a legal duty to negotiate in good faith to resolve claims to ancestral lands". The court rejected Chief Sam's argument that the Tsilhqot'in case created "a new principle of general application compelling negotiation in all [A]boriginal litigation". Instead, the court interpreted these references in Tsilhqot'in as simply referring to the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal claims in a manner proportionate to the strength of their claims, as mandated by the honour of the Crown.
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