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Governments to cover native land claim costs

VANCOUVER - A B.C. First Nation that won a partial victory last year in a long-standing land claims case will have some of its legal bills paid for by the provincial and federal governments.

The B.C. Court of Appeal issued a ruling in June that granted the Tsilhqot'in (sill-KOH'-teen) First Nation rights to hunt, trap and trade in what it considers its traditional land, but rejected its claim to aboriginal title.

The Appeal Court has now ordered the B.C. government and Ottawa to pay portions of the Tsilhqot'in's legal bills from the appeal.

A lawyer for the First Nation, James Nelson, says a formula outlined in provincial legislation will determine the exact amounts to be paid, but that hasn't been worked out yet.

The case dates back to the early 1990s, when the Tsilhqot'in first began using the courts and a blockade to stop logging operations in the area.

The First Nation filed an appeal of last year's decision with the Supreme Court of Canada, though the top court has yet to rule on whether it will hear the case.

The Tsilhqot'in, whose territory is near Williams Lake, B.C., is made up of six aboriginal bands that together include about 3,000 people.

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