The Nuchatlaht v British Columbia, 2024 BCSC 628 – Case Summary

In May of 2023, the BC Supreme Court issued judgment in an Aboriginal title claim to 201 square kilometres of land on Nootka Island brought by the Nuchatlaht, a Nuu-chah-nulth people. The court declined to issue a declaration of Aboriginal title, finding that the evidence did not establish sufficient occupation of the entire claim area to meet the test for Aboriginal title. The court, however, left the door open to the Nuchatlaht to pursue a declaration of Aboriginal title to one or more smaller areas within the claim area. For more on that decision, see our summary.

Beach looking out to sea with two tankers in the distance

Photo credit: Doane Gregory

After the May 2023 decision, the Nuchatlaht asked for a new trial so they could call new evidence. The court refused that request but allowed the Nuchatlaht to reargue the case to seek declarations of Aboriginal title to certain lands within the claim area. The Province of British Columbia conceded that the evidence met the test for Aboriginal title to areas near Nuchatlaht reserves and historical settlements. The Nuchatlaht argued that the evidence supported Aboriginal title to broader areas. The court accepted the province’s position with several modifications to include additional lands. In the result, the court held that the Nuchatlaht established Aboriginal title to a total of about 11 square kilometres of land along the coast of the northwest corner of Nootka Island.

The Nuchatlaht have indicated that they intend to appeal the ruling.

This case summary provides our general comments on the case discussed and should not be relied on as legal advice. If you have any questions about this case or any similar issue, please contact any of our lawyers.

See CanLII for the Reasons for Judgement.