Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Gitxaala Nation calls for quick action by British Columbia Government following Supreme Court ruling

A ruling delivered yesterday by the BC Supreme Court related towards mineral claims in  the Gitxaala Nation on Banks Island, has delivered a call for the province to revise how it addresses mineral claim staking.

The Court decision from Justice Ross,  issued a declaration that the current online system for automatic registration of mineral claims, without a system for consultation, breaches the constitutional obligations of the Crown . 

The Court decision has given the province of British Columbia 18 months to design a new, constitutionally valid regimen.

In response to the September 26th decision, Gitxaala Chief Councillor Linda Innes noted how the First Nation while noting of the call for change, also regrets that their territory remains open for claims staking without consultation.

“The Court’s decision makes clear what we knew all along: BC owes a duty to consult Gitxaałan and other Indigenous nations prior to granting mineral claims in our territories, and it is breaching that duty. The provincial government must now act quickly to eliminate its unjust practice of selling off our rights without our consultation or consent. 

While the Court suspended its declaration for 18 months, the case demonstrates that immediate overhaul of BC’s mineral tenure regime is required. We deeply regret that the Court did not set aside the mineral claims we challenged in this case, and leaves our territory open for continued mineral claims staking without consultation for the time being.”

The Chief Councillor's statement also highlighted how the decision has put an emphasis and a spotlight on the province's adoption of UNDRIP and how it should be applied.

“While Gitxaala is concerned that the Court did not give stronger treatment to DRIPA in this case, and we are considering our options, with this decision the status quo has profoundly shifted. Consistency with UNDRIP is a must for the required overhaul of BC’s mineral tenure regime – there’s no going back”

That view of the situation was previously noted in April as part of a Gitxaala Background summary for the BC Supreme Court.

"In summary, the BC Government grants mineral claims that convey important ownership and exploration rights with no consultation or engagement of any kind with impacted Indigenous Nations like Gitxaala.

This is inconsistent with Gitxaala's own inherent  jurisdiction in its territory, Canadian Constitutional law requirements, UNDRIP and the provincial government's stated commitment to reconciliation. 

Gitxaala is asking the Court to intervene and assist in connecting the BC government's failings in this regard, with a view to securing systemic changes to BC's Mineral Tenure act to bring it into agreement with UNDRIP"

The statement from the Gixalla First Nation also includes the full Judgment from the BC Supreme Court both of which you can review here

So far the Province of British Columbia has not responded to the court ruling.

Likewise, there has been no comment issued as of yet from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who represents the area in the Legislature.

We will feature more background on today's Court Decision later this evening as part of our media review from our political blog D'Arcy McGee.

More items of note from the Gitxalla Nation can be reviewed from our archive page.

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