Almost a year into B.C. adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) the Nuchatlaht First Nation (NFN) is calling on the province to honour its legislation with regards to an ongoing land title case.
The Nuchatlaht called on Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and the newly appointed cabinet ministers to “correct the long-standing government policy that Nuchatlaht abandoned their territory,” to abide by legislation to uphold the UNDRIP, and to drop its legal argument.
Since Jan. 2017, NFN has been legally pursuing a land claim for territory including Nootka Island, along the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.
“British Columbia’s lawyers have stalled the case by raising absurd_and expensive_arguments that the Nation abandoned their territory in an effort to disprove continuous use of the land,” read the statement.
Nuchatlaht house speaker, Archie Little told the Mirror that “the case is a classic example of how the province does not understand how our chiefs owned and operated the land.”
NFN’s chief (Tyee Ha’wiih) Jordan Michael’s lineage can be traced back to the 1700’s, said Little, adding that their ancestors have owned the land for thousands of years. The nation claims it was forced out of its traditional territory on Nootka Island, and the land was licensed by the province to logging companies without the consent of the First Nation. Western Forest Products runs its operations there now.
“British Columbia is trying to silence the Nuchatlaht Nation so that it can do whatever it wants to our land,” said Michael and added,“We will not be silent while our cultural sites are destroyed, salmon creeks are degraded, and old growth forests are clearcut.”
The Nation issued the statement in response to Horgan’s new cabinet, sworn in yesterday, which includes a new Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin.
After taking office yesterday, Rankin also tweeted yesterday about the significance of being sworn in on the anniversary of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act passed in British Columbia back on Nov. 26, 2019.
“There’s a great deal of work ahead in order to move reconciliation forward. As a first step, we’ll be establishing a Secretariat, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples, in order to ensure that new legislation and policies are consistent with the UN Declaration,” said Rankin in a tweet.
With Rankin’s appointment to the cabinet, and Horgan emphasizing on the importance of relationship between First Nations and the province, NFN wants to bring to light this historic case once again before the province, said Little.
“We have some hope that they will do the right by us, correct their ways and understand where we’re coming from,” said Little.
NFN’s attorney, Jack Woodward, said the province “now has an opportunity to advance the project of reconciliation by giving new instructions to Crown counsel to put aside the distasteful defense of abandonment used by previous administrations against First Nations.”
“Now is the time to build on the promises made in UNDRIP, which were adopted as part of B.C. law in 2019,” said Woodward in the statement.
Binny Paul/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter via The Canadian Press