The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

B.C. aboriginal leaders meet to talk strategy over historic land-claim ruling

  • Print

VANCOUVER - Overlapping land claims are a major issue facing British Columbia First Nations as they try to move forward following a landmark land-title ruling, say aboriginal leaders.

Hundreds of chiefs, lawyers and representatives of every aboriginal community in the province gathered at a two-day meeting in Richmond, B.C., trying to reach a consensus on how to proceed in the wake of the June decision by the country's highest court.

The unresolved territorial disputes are an issue, said Cheryl Casimer, of the First Nations Summit.

"If we don't work amongst ourselves to resolve that outstanding issue, we certainly know the province will definitely take full advantage of that," Casimer said in an interview Friday.

"For far too long the way that the province deals with First Nations in situations where there are disputes, it's always a process of divide and conquer. We're not interested in that any more."

B.C. chiefs will meet Sept. 11 with Premier Christy Clark and her cabinet. It will be the first meeting to discuss the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Tsilhqot'in nations won a decades-long court case that recognized — for the first time in Canadian history — their aboriginal title over 1,750 square kilometres of territory west of Williams Lake.

Title is akin to private ownership rights, and places a greater burden on First Nations' consent to economic development on aboriginal land.

However, the court said development can go ahead on titled land without consent in cases where it is pressing, substantial and meets the Crown's fiduciary duty.

It's an historic decision that could, potentially, bring resource development in B.C. to a standstill, Casimer said.

"So it's in the province's best interest to sit down and have a conversation with us on how we work together and how we move forward together," she said.

According to a Freedom of Information request filed with the provincial government by The Canadian Press, Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad has not received a single briefing note, memorandum, email or other internal communication regarding the court case over the past year.

As for dealings with the federal government over the new ruling, she said the First Nations Leadership Council, which includes the summit, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, hasn't heard a word from Ottawa aside from a press release sent to media the day of the decision.

Suggestions up for discussion at the meeting included putting an end to all treaty negotiations until the repercussions of the decision are established.

Delegates at the meeting also discussed whether the ruling overrides existing treaties and benefits agreements.

And it was suggested that B.C. aboriginal communities would wield greater power should they amalgamate under the federal Indian Act to create a single political entity, with dozens of regional councils.

Aboriginal leaders must also address the 75 per cent of their citizens who do not live on reserves, delegates were told.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the union, said reaching a consensus is a "work in progress."

"It's not lost on anyone that unity is a fundamental element of achieving success in any political or legal strategy," Phillip said in an interview.

"I think we can look forward to that happening to a greater extent than it has in the past."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Wasylycia-Leis says Bowman and Ouellette ran a good campaign

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100527-Winnipeg Free Press THe Provencher Foot Bridge is lit up
  • Susan and Gary Harrisonwalk their dog Emma on a peaceful foggy morning in Assiniboine Park – Standup photo– November 27, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Premier Greg Selinger resign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google