On June 26, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada ("SCC") issued its unanimous decision in Tsilhqot'in Nation v British Columbia, making the first declaration of Aboriginal title in judicial history, and speaking at length about the principles, tests, and legislative issues surrounding claims for Aboriginal title.
Although the Province had abandoned prior arguments that the Tsilhqot'in claim should be barred due to defects in the pleadings, the SCC took the opportunity to address pleadings in Aboriginal land claims to provide guidance in future litigation.
The SCC underscored the high stakes of Aboriginal land claims and the goal of reconciliation between the Aboriginal claimant group and broader society. It further noted that it can be difficult to demonstrate the historical use of land at the outset of a case, as this evidence will be introduced through elders and experts during the course of the litigation or trial.
The SCC explained that pleadings are intended to provide the parties and the court with an outline of the main allegations and the relief being requested. If the pleadings achieve this purpose, any minor defects should be overlooked, provided there is no clear prejudice.