People at Wet’suwet’en checkpoint await next wave of RCMP injunction enforcement

First wave of RCMP injunction enforcement resulted in 6 arrests early Thursday morning

On Thursday, the RCMP began its anticipated enforcement of an injunction against a blockade by the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters. People at the Gidimt’en checkpoint expect police to show up again soon. (Jesse Winter/VICE)

People staying at the Gidimt’en checkpoint in Wet’suwet’en territory don’t know when the RCMP will show up again, but they expect it will happen soon.

The checkpoint, located at the 44 kilometre mark of the Morice West Forest Service Road, is a gated occupation site where an unknown number of people are staying in defiance of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction order — opting to instead dig in and assert Wet’suwet’en law, at the direction of the nation’s hereditary chiefs.

Coastal Gaslink, a subsidiary of TC Energy, applied for the injunction in late 2018. On Dec. 31, 2019, the court ruled the company is fully permitted by the province to work on constructing a $6-billion, 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline from northeastern B.C. to the coast in Kitimat and granted an interlocutory injunction.

On Thursday, the RCMP began its anticipated enforcement of the injunction.

Six people were arrested Thursday morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. in an early morning police operation, with the RCMP announcing they were establishing an “exclusion zone” in the area.

The RCMP had established a checkpoint on the road on Jan. 13, citing safety concerns for restricting movement through the area.

But in announcing the exclusion zone on the morning of Feb. 6, the force said only police would be allowed to pass a specific point on the road while enforcement actions take place. RCMP said exceptions would be made for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and elected leaders at the discretion of a senior commander.

In a press release, the RCMP said the individuals were arrested for obstruction. Officers also removed journalists from the area, drawing condemnation from groups like the Canadian Association of Journalists and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

The RCMP said members of the media, along with others, “were transferred out for safety reasons, but not arrested.”

In a video posted to a Wet’suwet’en Facebook page Thursday night, the six people who had been arrested stated they were released without charge.

‘Feeling the pressure’ at Gidimt’en checkpoint

Thursday morning’s arrests happened five kilometres away from where the Gidimt’en checkpoint stands, and people living there are now waiting for the next wave of enforcement.

Eve Saint, daughter of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Woos, is among those at Gidimt’en checkpoint.

She said police have moved quickly through the territory.

By Thursday afternoon, after the early morning arrests nearby, people in the camp could hear heavy machinery getting closer to them.

Six people were arrested Thursday morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. in an early morning police operation. (Jesse Winter/VICE)

“But we didn’t experience any breach as of yet so we’re kind of feeling the pressure tonight,” she said in an interview Thursday night.

Saint said the heavy machinery and RCMP made it within 100 metres of the checkpoint gate before stopping, then leaving.

Those at the checkpoint aren’t sure what to expect next, but Saint said people remained calm on Thursday night.

She made clear the group is unarmed and intends to remain peaceful through whatever happens next. But she also plans to stand firm where she is.

She said for her, this is a fight for her land’s sovereignty and Indigenous rights.

“The hereditary chiefs had this governance system before Canada was even Canada,” she said.

She wants to protect that governance system, along with their connection to the land and water in the territory.

Enforcement draws outrage, disappointment 

Initial enforcement actions on Thursday morning drew swift and widespread outrage from Indigenous leaders and First Nations across the country.

“We are in absolute outrage and a state of painful anguish as we witness the Wet’suwet’en people having their title and rights brutally trampled on and their right to self-determination denied,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said in the hours after the enforcement began.

There were also several solidarity demonstrations in urban centres.

Premier John Horgan spoke to reporters about the enforcement actions on Thursday, saying “certainly it’s not the outcome we had hoped for, or had been working toward.”

“We are continuing to be hopeful that there will be a peaceful resolution,” he said.

In an open letter posted on the Coastal GasLink website on Thursday, company president David Pfeiffer called the situation “disappointing.”

“This is not the outcome we wanted. We have made exceptional efforts to resolve this blockade through engagement and dialogue,” said Pfeiffer.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs spent much of Thursday on the forest service road while RCMP continued to move ahead in their enforcement actions.

In the view of Na’moks, one of the chiefs, the people who are standing in support of the nation on the territory “are doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. We’re protecting the land, the air, the water; our rights and title; our authority as hereditary chiefs. And we’re exercising our jurisdiction.”

Na’Moks, a hereditary chief with the Wet’suwet’en Nation who also goes by John Risdale, said there was no reason for police to remove supporters from the land. (Dan Mesec)

While the hereditary chiefs assert their authority, the RCMP continue to assert theirs. And those at the Gidimt’en checkpoint will likely be next to encounter the police.

Given their isolated location on the forest service road, there is nowhere for the group to retreat to.

Beyond that checkpoint is the last of the Wet’suwet’en re-occupation sites on the road: the Unistot’en healing village. People from the nation have been operating a checkpoint at that site since 2009, asserting nobody is allowed through without the consent of the hereditary chiefs.  SOURCE

RELATED:

 Wet’suwet’en Strong: SUPPORTER TOOLKIT

 

First Nations Vow to Fight on after Trans Mountain Defeat

Federal court rejects argument consultation was inadequate. ‘Reconciliation stopped today,’ says representative.

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The $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is already under construction. The expansion has been strongly opposed by the Indigenous governments challenging it in court. Photo by Jason Franson, the Canadian Press.

The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed an application from First Nations seeking to overturn the government’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion because they had not been adequately consulted.

While pipeline supporters applauded the court’s decision, opponents — including representatives of the First Nations involved in the challenge — promised the fight will continue both inside and outside the legal system.

“The applicants’ submissions are essentially that the Project cannot be approved until all of their concerns are resolved to their satisfaction,” Justices Marc Noël, J.D. Denis Pelletier and J.B. Laskin wrote in their unanimous reasons for judgment released today.

“If we accepted those submissions, as a practical matter there would be no end to consultation, the Project would never be approved, and the applicants would have a de facto veto right over it,” it said.

The application was filed by the Coldwater Indian Band, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation along with the Aitchelitz, Skowkale, Shxwhá:y Village, Soowahlie, Squiala First Nation, Tzeachten and Yakweakwioose.

The respondents were the Canadian attorney general, Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC and Trans Mountain Corporation. The attorneys general for Alberta and Saskatchewan intervened, as did the Canadian Energy Regulator (formerly known as the National Energy Board).

The $7.4-billion project, already under construction, will twin an existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline from near Edmonton to Burnaby, tripling capacity to 890,000 barrels per day.

The expansion has been strongly opposed by the Indigenous governments challenging it in court, as well as by local governments, environmental groups and individuals. More than 200 people have been arrested protesting construction in the Lower Mainland, including former Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May and now Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, cases that have led to charges in many cases and proceeded through the court system.

In a 2018 ruling, the court had found that the federal government’s original decision to approve the expansion of the pipeline, which it now owns after buying it from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion, was based on an “impermissibly under-inclusive” environmental assessment and a failure by the Crown to fulfil its duty to consult with Indigenous peoples.

Today’s decision found the consultation process launched after that ruling has been sufficient, justifying the subsequent federal government approval.

“Contrary to what the applicants assert, this was anything but a rubber-stamping exercise,” the justices ruled. “The end result was not a ratification of the earlier approval, but an approval with amended conditions flowing directly from the renewed consultation.”

“It is true that the applicants are of the view that their concerns have not been fully met, but to insist on that happening is to impose a standard of perfection, a standard not required by law.”

Trans Mountain Corporation welcomed the ruling. “After many years of consultation and review we are pleased to be able to continue moving forward and building the Project in respect of communities, and for the benefit of Canadians,” President and CEO Ian Anderson said in an emailed statement.

“The Government of Canada’s additional Indigenous consultation represented an immense undertaking by many parties. The Government was committed to a specific and focused dialogue with affected Indigenous communities to ensure Canada, and the Company heard their concerns and responded.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted “Another win on the #TMX pipeline for Alberta! Pleased to see this unanimous decision by the Federal Court of Appeal to reject this challenge. Now let’s get it built.”

Representatives of the First Nations involved in the case expressed deep disappointment with the ruling during a news conference in Vancouver but said the fight will continue.

“Disappointing as it is, it’s one step,” said Tsleil-Waututh elected Chief Leah George-Wilson. “We have far longer to go in this journey.”

We’ll continue to fight to enforce our jurisdiction within our territories,” said Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation elected councillor, stressing the continued right to self-determination on unceded lands.

While there are legal options to continue the fight, he said, it’s worth remembering B.C.’s long history of civil disobedience in support of environmental causes. “There are a lot of people who are willing to do a lot to defend our coast and defend our communities.”

The applicants have 60 days to review the decision and decide whether to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Several speakers pointed out that the federal government’s drive to complete the pipeline expansion is at odds with its stated goals of reconciliation with Indigenous people and action on the climate crisis. The pipeline will carry bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to be exported by tanker from Burnaby.

“Reconciliation stopped today,” said Rueben George, a spokesperson for the Sacred Trust Initiative of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “This government is incapable of making sound decisions for our future generations.”

University of Victoria law professor Chris Tollefson said the appeal court’s decision was unsurprising and the matter is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The original decision requiring additional consultations “made it clear there were some fundamental problems with the process and sent it back for those to be fixed,” said Tollefson, who represented BC Nature through the National Energy Board process.

“The new process was not much better than the old one. It still left many of the same questions and problems on the table,” he said. “Instead of opening the courthouse door and hearing those arguments, what the court did the second time was to severely constrain which arguments it would hear and from whom they would hear them.”

“What we have is a judicial process that is very much open to criticism in terms of giving parties with a very legitimate stake, who have worked in this process, they’ve been effectively denied their ability to make their case.”

Today’s decision answers a small number of questions for a narrow number of litigants, meaning the Supreme Court will eventually have to rule on all the still unanswered questions, he said.

“It’s not the end of the story.”

Today’s ruling follows a unanimous January Supreme Court of Canada decision that found British Columbia lacked the jurisdiction to regulate the flow of heavy oil across the province. SOURCE

 

Horgan’s Pipeline Push Betrays His Reconciliation Promise

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‘Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?’ Photo by Michael Toledano.

It’s the same old story Indigenous Peoples have heard for generations.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tells the public “the rule of law” demands the Coastal GasLink pipeline go ahead. Permits are in place, and the courts have approved construction.

The opposition of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is not important to Horgan, as he points to 20 First Nations that have signed agreements to allow the pipeline and negotiated benefits. The five clans who have not agreed don’t seem to count.

Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?

Are we not in a new era of reconciliation? A new decade? The decade of the enactment of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act in this province?

What would I expect from the premier in this new era, in this particular situation when he needs credibility with First Nations if his commitment to UNDRIP is to be taken seriously?

I would expect the premier to look back on past decisions and ensure they were made in the spirit of UNDRIP — including approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. His party was making political promises to uphold UNDRIP long before the NDP were in government.

In the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision, the justices stated clearly that provincial and federal governments need to be prepared to cancel already approved projects if First Nations establish title to the land and oppose them.

“Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward,” the judgment says. “For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.” (Emphasis added.)

The court also sets out the correct path for governments.

“Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group.

Horgan should heed the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada and revisit the decision to proceed with the pipeline, especially in light of his commitments to resolve land titles, implement UNDRIP and advance reconciliation. The court advised getting the consent of Indigenous people; that’s what he should do.

The right to self-determination

Furthermore, UNDRIP is very clear that all Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination. Self-determination means that Indigenous Peoples will freely determine their own political status. That means governments and companies cannot decide which is the right governing body for a nation. That is a matter for Indigenous Peoples.

The Indian Act imposed a system of government on First Nations, attempting to dismantle a governance system that had functioned for centuries. It made chiefs and councils the owners of the land and gave them total power.

But traditional government systems have not been eradicated.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposing the pipeline, and some are questioning their legitimacy.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs launched the lawsuit and took the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Surely this should indicate to the government and companies who has title and rights to the land. And surely, they should recognize that it is up to the Indigenous people to determine this, not the provincial government. Clearly the hereditary chiefs must be part of this decision on whether the pipeline proceeds.

Free, prior and informed consent

Free, prior and informed consent has been and will continue to be an issue in relation to UNDRIP, because governments and Indigenous people do not agree on its meaning.

Horgan’s government has said it was waiting for the UNDRIP legislation to pass before working to reach agreement about what free, prior and informed consent means. He has not tried to work this out with First Nations in advance, even though that would have been prudent.

We have heard Horgan and Minister of Indigenous Relations Scott Fraser say that the requirement for free, prior and informed consent does not give First Nations a veto over projects in their territories.

Then what is consent under UNDRIP? Is it a simple yes or no? Does it give a veto because no means no? These are good questions that must be answered by Indigenous Peoples and governments.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are saying no. No consent. No project. No access. Not on their lands.

In criminal law, a woman can say no to a man and no means no. If he proceeds against her wishes, he can be guilty of a crime. Why doesn’t the requirement for free, prior and informed consent give the same right to Indigenous Peoples?

So what does consent mean to this B.C. government? That they have the final say? That they can decide no does not mean no. That the status quo continues when it comes to development?

That would not reflect a new era of reconciliation, or the principles of UNDRIP. That would be the Crown asserting jurisdiction over First Nations laws and title once again.

Sending in the RCMP to remove protesters is also the same old story — a show of force against defenders of the land who are not armed, who are elders, youth and chiefs. RCMP assert their power under a court order that hasn’t taken into account Indigenous laws.

This pipeline dispute is not new. It has been ongoing for years. That it has not been resolved speaks volumes about the unwillingness of this government to sit down at a table with the hereditary chiefs and talk about why they are opposed and try and resolve differences.

If we are in the era of reconciliation, there needs to be more efforts to come to agreements. If agreements cannot be reached, there needs to be impartial tribunals established to help find those solutions. And if no solutions are found, then there is no project.

If the principles of UNDRIP are being implemented and being placed into laws, the government has to start respecting its provisions now.

For instance, Article 18 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to participate in any decision-making through their own procedures and law. This has not happened.

Article 26 gives them the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources they possess through ownership, and says the state must give legal recognition and protect their lands and resources. None of this has occurred to date, and it doesn’t look like B.C. is even considering it. The government is saying this is Crown land, the company has Crown permits, so therefore the development must happen.

Article 25 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to strengthen their spiritual relationship with the land, waters and resources in their territories. But if their territory is destroyed for a pipeline, their relationship with their land will also be destroyed.

Article 29 gives them the right to the productive capacity of their territories, and a pipeline does not allow for this.

There are many more articles on implementing laws and protecting sacred and cultural sites that B.C. is violating by continuing with the pipeline project over Wet’suwet’en objections.

These statements by Horgan set back the ambitious, positive agenda set by his government in implementing UNDRIP. They signal to First Nations’ people in B.C. that the government is not serious about the new law.

And they strongly signal trouble ahead as B.C. continues with its status quo agenda that claims government has final say over developments on First Nation title lands, and the requirement for free, prior and informed consent will not be taken seriously.

Many First Nations peoples in this province are hearing Horgan and asking what has changed?

The answer is nothing. B.C. is moving ahead with the government’s economic agenda at the expense of First Nations rights, title and all the requirements set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

First Nations people thought we were throwing out the old book and beginning a new one. Sadly, it looks like the same old story. This is not the new decade we were looking for. SOURCE

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Oil and gas industry applauds Supreme Court’s dismissal of pipeline case
The criminalization of Indigenous land defenders is a global concern

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip & Peter McCartney: Canada must stop violating Indigenous human rights for megaprojects

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet'suwet'en members.

The RCMP are obliged to enforce a civil injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink pipeline against Freda Huson (right) and other Wet’suwet’en members.

By Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Peter McCartney

There’s no way around it—Indigenous peoples are the proper title and rights holders over their territories, and their human rights cannot be trampled just because a megaproject floats the dream of big money to investors.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently called on Canada to immediately stop construction on three major industrial projects until affected Indigenous Nations have given their consent. The Coastal GasLink pipeline, Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and the Site C dam have all been met with consistent opposition from many of the nations whose territories they would cross and infringe upon. Community members have been violently removed from their lands for asserting their title and rights and exercising their inherent right to control and develop their lands, territories and resources.

As we write this, the RCMP is preparing to descend upon Wet’suwet’en territory to clear the path of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, as the company recently won a court injunction that the RCMP is obliged to enforce. Meanwhile, land defenders who oppose the federally owned Trans Mountain pipeline have faced harassment, surveillance, intimidation, and violent arrest.

These events highlight the concerns of the UN for the rights and safety of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Police violence and human rights violations are only likely to escalate unless political leaders step in. Their courage or cowardice will define whether reconciliation becomes yet another hollow promise to Indigenous Peoples or a chance to build this country upon principles of equality and respect—the way it should have been from the beginning.

We’ve visited the Tiny House Warriors, the Rocky Mountain Fort, and the Unist’ot’en healing lodge in the path of these megaprojects. Friends have told us how they’ve been turned away from local businesses, constantly harassed and surveilled by police, and even injured in violent arrests. It does not and should not have to be like this.

We can have an economy that reflects our values. There’s a right way to provide jobs and prosperity, but it requires patience, humility and prioritizing the relationships that we are trying to build. Indigenous Peoples have laws and governments that have been in place on these territories long before Canada’s. Respecting their right to make decisions about those lands means accepting our shared future in this place is more important than any one resource project.

For generations, Canada has proudly supported human rights on the international stage at the United Nations forums while consistently failing to apply the same moral compass here at home. If we are going to live up to our ideals rather than repeat the mistakes of the past, and if British Columbia is to advance its commitment to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we must heed the call and stop Trans Mountain, Coastal GasLink and Site C. Only once we stop straining the fragile bonds between us can we move forward in partnership. SOURCE

Hundreds take to the streets for pipeline protest

The project has received opposition from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs (File photo)

ANCOUVER — Hundreds of people marched from BC Supreme Court to Victory Square Saturday to voice their support for opponents of a natural gas pipeline project.

“It’s our territory. It’s not Canadian land. It’s not the Queen’s. It’s not the RCMP’s. It’s Wet’suwet’en land. It’s our land,” said Jerome Pete, who grew up on the traditional territory where Coastal GasLink plans to build its pipeline.

The company posted an injunction order Tuesday, giving people at a protest camp near Houston 72 hours to make way for construction workers.

“I’m here as an indigenous youth standing with Wet’suwet’en Nation in their resistance to Coastal Gaslink pipeline and colonial forces that seek to remove indigenous people from our lands and our futures,” said Ta’Kaiya Blaney as she addressed the crowd at Victory Square.

Vancouver pipeline protest

Hundreds of people marched from BC Supreme Court to Victory Square Saturday to voice their support for opponents of a natural gas pipeline project. (CTV)

Coastal GasLink has agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre route, but not the support of hereditary chiefs.

“It’s really quite simple. Elected band councils have jurisdiction and authority to the reserve land system. Period,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs. “The hereditary chiefs have authority over the territory – the broad territory.”

This week, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged a halt to the project, saying it does not respect the rights of indigenous people. That prompted a response from B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner.

“We have obligations to ensure free, prior, and informed consent exists for all impacted Indigenous groups before projects impact lands,” said Commissioner Kasari Govender in a statement in support of the pipeline’s opponents.

Environmentalist David Suzuki made some remarks at the Saturday rally, but it was young indigenous voices that spoke the loudest.

“Standing with Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters means that I am standing with my future,” said Blaney.

With Coastal GasLink’s 72-hour injunction notice now expired, people at Saturday’s march and rally feared the RCMP would move in to arrest protesters at the camp. SOURCE

RELATED:

BC human rights commissioner asks Canadian government to halt Coastal GasLink

Cowichan First Nations in court to recover disputed lands, fishing rights in Richmond

The case, launched in 2014, is currently taking place in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria

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The Cowichan Nation Alliance has laid claim to roughly 780 acres of publicly-owned land along the south arm of the Fraser River in Richmond, near Triangle Beach. The case is currently taking place in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria, pictured above. Photograph By GOOGLE MAPS

Nearly 200 years ago, before Richmond existed, an Indigenous settlement containing over 108 longhouses sat along the south arm of the Fraser River, according to the Cowichan Nation Alliance (CNA).

The CNA — which is based around the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island — have since laid claim to roughly 780 acres of publicly-held land near Triangle Beach, now at the centre of an ongoing B.C. Supreme Court case.

This area, according to court documents, made up a portion of the approximately 1,846 acres of traditional village and surrounding land along the river’s south arm — known as the Lands of Tl’uqtinus — and  was “exclusively occupied” by the Cowichan, including when Canada issued grants for those lands.

Other court records state both Richmond and Canada deny this.

Cowichan Village
The yellow-shaded area is land owned by Richmond, while land owned by the federal government is marked in pink. The red line marks the boundary of the Cowichan village, yellow squares near the river mark village houses and the green line is the boundary of the Cowichan harvesting and gathering area. – Cowichan Nation Alliance

The CNA — made up of the Cowichan Tribes, Stz’uminus First Nation, Halalt First Nation and Penelakut Tribe — is also seeking the right to fish the south arm of the Fraser River for food.

The Lyackson First Nation, which is also a member of the CNA, support the case but is not a plaintiff.

The case, which was initiated in March 2014 against Canada, B.C. and the City of Richmond, is now entering month five of a trial that is expected to run throughout the year, according to David Robbins, one of the lawyers representing the CNA.

The court case is taking place in Victoria.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, along with Musqueam Indian Band and Tsawwassen First Nation — which both have rights to fish the south arm of the Fraser River — have also been named as defendants.

According to the Cowichan Tribes — which has over 5,000 members and is the province’s largest First Nations community — their traditional territory spanned over 370,000 hectares, ranging from Vancouver Island to the south arm of the Fraser River, and as far south as Washington State.

The vast settlement in Richmond, with its many longhouses, was first observed by Hudson Bay Company officials in 1824, according to the CNA.

But when the first native reserves were created in 1859, the chief commissioner for the lands for the colony of British Columbia, Colonel Richard Moody, failed to finalize the village and its surrounding land as a Cowichan Indian Reserve, according to a press release by CNA.

“Instead, (he) surreptitiously took part of the lands for himself,” reads the release.

According to court documents, approximately 80 of the 780 acres claimed in the case by CNA are owned by Richmond, while the remaining land is owned by the federal government and the port authority.

“Our homeland was stolen from us. We want the lands that are held by the government returned to us,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour in the release.

While court documents note that the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project — approved by the federal and provincial governments in 2013 — runs through some of the disputed land, Robbins said the case doesn’t affect the project.

Other court documents filed by the federal government state there was “extensive consultation with each of the plaintiff First Nations,” and the CNA did not oppose the project.

Cowichan Nation is also not seeking to recover any privately-held lands in the court case, said Robbins. Rather, said Robbins, CNA is “seeking a negotiated reconciliation with British Columbia” for those lands.

The nation’s plans for the publicly-owned 780 acres “are to be determined,” said Robbins.

cowichan village
Detail of a c. 1854 U.S. coast survey chart, which shows the location of Cowichan village. – Cowichan Nation Alliance

SOURCE
© 2020 Richmond News

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Judy Wilson to Sonya Savage: Get educated on land rights

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, pictured in 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

A prominent First Nations leader says Alberta’s energy minister “needs to be more educated” on Indigenous land rights, after an urgent warning by a United Nations committee provoked the province’s anger.

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, told National Observer that she felt Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage was misguided when she slammed a UN directive calling on Canada to halt construction on energy projects.

“I think that she doesn’t understand what the proper title-holders are,” Wilson said. “I think she needs to be more educated on that.”

Alberta NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir also told National Observer that Savage’s remarks show the UCP government in Alberta refuses to respect Indigenous rights.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage on May 2, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade 

The UN directive calls on Canada to stop construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, the Site C dam and the Coastal GasLink pipeline until the government can properly carry out its constitutional duty to consult and obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous people.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was concerned large projects in Canada could cause “irreparable harm to Indigenous peoples rights, culture, lands, territories and way of life.” It also said it was disturbed by law enforcement’s “harassment and intimidation” and alarmed by the “escalating threat of violence.”

After news broke Tuesday of the December directive from the UN, Savage issued a statement criticizing the international body as “unaccountable” and “unelected” and suggesting it was “beyond rich” that its work would “single out Canada.”

“We wish that the UN would pay as much attention to the majority of First Nation groups that support important projects such as Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink,” Savage wrote.

“First Nations leaders increasingly recognize that responsible natural resource development can serve as a path from poverty to prosperity for their people. Yet this UN body seemingly ignores these voices.”

Sonya Savage@sonyasavage

With all the atrocities in the world, many committed in other oil producing countries, UN efforts would be better directed there than at Canada…

My full statement on the UN Racism Commitee calling for the halt of major resource projects:

View image on Twitter

In the case of Coastal GasLink, the proper title-holders are hereditary, Wilson said. While the company has indicated it has signed agreements with all elected First Nations councils, five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are demanding the province suspend permits for the pipeline.

The hereditary chiefs have cited Wet’suwet’en trespass laws when they sent an eviction notice recently to the company. Hereditary chief Na’moks even cited the UN directive in comments: “The world is watching; the United Nations is watching. This is not just the Wet’suwet’en,” said Na’moks, according to CBC News.

Alberta NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir said in a statement that “we believe the economy, environment, and Indigenous rights can, and must, go hand-in-hand.” The former Alberta NDP government led an anti-racism initiative and formed the Indigenous Climate Leadership Initiative, he noted.

“As a result, we were able to move much needed resource development forward in a responsible manner,” said Sabir. “The current UCP government’s dismissive attitude towards the environment, refusal to respect Indigenous rights, and lack of vision will only lead to further delays and more projects being questioned.”

The UN directive is not the first time that the organization has cast a critical eye on Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people and its pursuit of fossil fuel and energy projects, in the context of discrimination.

Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, speaks to media in Ottawa on June 6, 2019. Photo by Carl Meyer 

In June 2019, Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, concluded that Indigenous communities in Canada are “disproportionately impacted” by toxic industrial byproducts to the point that it raised questions of discrimination.

In addition to its warning about resource projects, the new UN directive recommends Canada “establish, in consultation with Indigenous peoples, a legal and institutional framework to ensure adequate consultation” and to incorporate free, prior and informed consent into domestic legislation.

In British Columbia, the province passed legislation in November to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It has not yet been passed federally.

The UN body also urged Canada to “prohibit the use of lethal weapons, notably by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, against Indigenous peoples.” RCMP were “prepared to shoot” land defenders blockading Coastal GasLink construction, the Guardian reported in December, citing internal police documents.

“Canada needs to heed these international bodies, international law, and they keep talking about upholding the rule of law, but Canada isn’t doing that as a country,” Wilson said.

“The rule of law is very clear with regards to discrimination, we should be moving as a country past that. We should be working on a better direction, instead of reinforcing the old fossil fuel and oil industry. We’re wasting a lot of time because of climate change.” SOURCE

 

In the wake of Indigenous rights declaration, B.C.’s lawyers make ‘distasteful’ arguments in First Nations title case

The province is arguing the Nuchatlaht, who have never ceded control of their traditional territory in Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, abandoned their land — while the nation reminds the court their land was stolen.

Nuchatlaht Traditional Territory Nuchatlitz Inner Basin Nootka Island Troy Moth
The Nuchatlitz Inner Basin on Nootka Island in the Nuchatlaht First Nation’s traditional territory. The nation is currently engaged in legal proceedings to claim title to their land. Photo: Troy Moth

On the same day the B.C. government passed legislation embracing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in late November, lawyer Jack Woodward was in court representing the Nuchatlaht First Nation in a historic land title case.

“I was on my feet the day it came into force, so I could present it to the court,” Woodward told The Narwhal.

“It had its first test before the ink was dry.”

But Woodward — renowned for his role in drafting Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, which enshrined Indigenous rights in the 1980s — said the newly minted law has meant very little to the Nuchatlaht case and arguments being used by B.C.’s lawyers in courts.

The province claims the Nuchatlaht do not have legal claim to their lands because the nation abandoned its territory, Woodward said.

“The province is completely wrong on the facts … They did not abandon Nootka. The lands were stolen and they were forcibly ejected,” Woodward said.

“I said to the judge that not only are these pleadings disgraceful, objectionable and distasteful, they are now illegal.”

Jack Woodward, lawyer for the Nuchatlaht

Jack Woodward, lawyer for the Nuchatlaht. Photo: Daniel Pierce

New rules reinforce inherent Indigenous right to land

B.C.’s new law acknowledges that UNDRIP’s principles are specifically written with concern that “Indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of … their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources.”

The declaration also recognizes the “urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples … especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources.”

Article eight of UNDRIP says governments must use “effective mechanisms” to prevent the dispossession of Indigenous lands and resources.

The Nuchatlaht’s traditional territory lies on the west coast of Vancouver Island, encompassing  a large part of Nootka Island, Nuchatlitz Inlet and part of Esperanza Inlet. While the nation argues it maintained strong ownership over its traditional territory once European settlers arrived, in more recent history the land was parceled out under B.C. laws, giving industry — and in particular, logging companies — access to the land. MORE

Courts deny most First Nations injunctions


Indigenous leaders march on Jan. 8, 2019, in Vancouver, B.C. Rallies were held across Canada to show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en. Photo by Michael Ruffolo

But she was shocked after she and her fellow researchers began crunching numbers.

The team at Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous-led think tank, reviewed nearly 100 injunction cases. They found corporations succeeded in 76 per cent of injunctions filed against First Nations, while First Nations were denied in 81 per cent of injunctions against corporations.

Similarly, First Nations were denied in 82 per cent of injunctions filed against the government.

The findings were published in a Yellowhead report, called Land Back.

Infographic illustrating Yellowhead Institute’s findings in its report, Land Back. Provided by Yellowhead Institute.

“What we found was even more shocking than we could have imagined,” Pasternak said of what she called “astronomically high” numbers for corporations and governments and “absolutely dismal success” for First Nations.

A small team of researchers at Yellowhead pored through cases across the country, set research parameters (for example, they focused on First Nations instead of Inuit and Métis) and variables and had 10 people conduct a peer review on the methodology.

They concluded the data shows that the court system is skewed toward seeing value and harm in economic terms opposed to Indigenous people asserting their rights and their laws.

“It was a very weird feeling to discover that. On the one hand, I felt vindicated that we had spent so much time on it,” Pasternak said. “And on the other hand, within a moment, I felt so depressed just thinking about how this mechanism had so unlawfully removed people from protecting their own land.”

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

For those who can’t sleep tonight, my video on the RCMP raid on Gidumt’en territory: https://youtu.be/2oand_gk59o 

How an injunction works

Filing an injunction is a very expedited process — so there is not much time to present the courts with extensive or complex evidence.

A party may file an injunction one afternoon and have a hearing the next day, said Sean Sutherland, an associate at Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP in Calgary. The firm has represented Kinder Morgan and Enbridge, as well as renewable-energy companies and companies in other industries.

Injunctions are mostly done by affidavits and are meant to provide temporary relief in a matter of urgency. The party filing for the injunction must prove they cannot wait until a hearing for resolution.

Sutherland explained there are three tests in an injunction: whether it’s a serious issue; whether it may cause irreparable harm; and the “balance of convenience,” which means the court decides whether the party wanting the injunction or the party resisting faces the bigger risk of suffering harm.

He emphasized how the harm must be irreparable, and many injunctions are lost in court at that test.

“You can have very significant harm in terms of magnitude, but it’s still not irreparable,” he said, in which case the courts say the decision can wait for a final hearing. MORE

‘This is not Canada’: inside the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s battle against Taseko Mines

A proposed copper and gold mine has been rejected twice by the federal government for its impacts on Fish Lake, an area considered sacred by the Tsilhqot’in. But B.C.’s mining laws allow the company to move ahead with exploration work anyway. That doesn’t square with Tsilhqot’in law and the community says it won’t back down

Image result for the narwhal: ‘This is not Canada’: inside the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s battle against Taseko Mines
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua sits in a pit house built as part of the Xeni Gwet’in traditional village near the shores of Chilko Lake in the Nemiah Valley. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

The brand-new, 21-foot Highfield boat, bought by Xeni Gwet’in First Nation to enforce Tsilhqot’in laws on Chilko Lake, docks at the pebble beach on a small island and Chief Jimmy Lulua dives in.

Chilko Lake Louis Bockner Taseko New Prosperity Tsilhqot’in Nation
Where the road through the Nemiah Valley in Tsilhqot’in territory ends, Chilko Lake begins. The mountains that rise from its shores offer a stark contrast to the open landscape of the Xeni Gwet’in traditional territory. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

A quick dry-off and Lulua is ready to give a history lesson.

“We have always owned this land. Everywhere you look belongs to us. The land is who we are as Tsilhqot’in people. We say we are people of the river, people of the blue water,” he said.

“This is not B.C., this is not Canada. The jurisdiction is ours,” he said.

Chief Jimmy Lulua of the Xeni Gwet'in Louis Bockner Taseko New Prosperity Tsilhqot’in Nation
Chief Jimmy Lulua of the Xeni Gwet’in was elected in a 2018 landslide victory and is continuing the band’s decades-long fight against Taseko Mines’ proposed New Prosperity Mine at Fish Lake. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal

Neither is it the Wild West, Lulua emphasized and, as Tsilhqot’in communities master the complexities of writing laws and generating revenue, they are also figuring out how to control activities in a vast territory that, for the first time in Canadian history, has been legally acknowledged as belonging to Indigenous people who have used the land for thousands of years.

In a precedent-setting 2014 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that the Tsilhqot’in Nation held Aboriginal title to almost 1,800 kilometres of land in central B.C., southwest of Williams Lake. The title land covers the Nemiah Valley and stretches north into the Brittany Triangle, along the Chilko River and part of Chilko Lake. That means the Tsilhqot’in Nation, made up of six communities including Xeni Gwet’in, has the right to exclusive use and control of the land.

Dezine Studio Tsilhqot'in Nation New Prosperity Taseko Fish LakeIn 2014 the Tsilhqot’in won a 25-year legal battle when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the nation held Aboriginal title to almost 1,800 kilometres of land in central B.C. A larger area has been legally declared as a place where Tsilqot’in have rights to hunt, trap, fish and trade. Taseko Mines’ proposed New Prosperity mine is within this larger rights area, and also within an area the Tsilqot’in delcared as a tribal park in 2014. Map: Dezine Studio / The Narwhal

A larger area claimed by the First Nation, including Dasiqox Tribal Park, has been legally declared as Tsilhqot’in rights land, giving the right to hunt, trap, fish and trade. But, it remains a grey area where rules can be unclear.

The rights land includes Fish Lake, known as Teztan Biny, an area of profound cultural and spiritual significance, and ground zero for an almost 30-year fight against Taseko Mines Ltd.. That fight is reigniting as the mining company pushes to conduct extensive explorations while the Tsilhqot’in Nation remains adamant that Taseko equipment will not be allowed into the territory. MORE

RELATED:

Supreme Court rejects Tsilhqot’in appeal in Taseko mine case

The Tsilhqot’in Nation calls mine exploration a violation of human rights


First Nations protest Taseko Mines outside of federal court in Vancouver in 2017. (CBC)

 

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