(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver) - "The Union of BC Indian Chiefs congratulates Xeni Gwet'in and Chief Roger William on their hard-earned court victory today. Today's judgment is another nail in the coffin for the BC Treaty Process. Clearly the process is dead," stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
"What the judgment confirms is what we already know, the full measure of Aboriginal Title is a legal reality in BC and BC has no jurisdiction on our lands," said Grand Chief Phillip. "The astonishing inconsistencies between this decision and the two Final Agreements are absolutely monumental - why would any First Nation be foolish enough to ratify any BCTC settlement agreement for less than 5% of their territory when the Xeni Gwet'in has achieved recognition of their Aboriginal Title to 50% of their territory?"
The Xeni Gwet'in sought declaration of Tsilhqot'in Aboriginal rights throughout their territory. Chief Roger William, in his representative capacity on behalf of all Xeni Gwet'in and all Tsilhqot'in people, brought the suit forward in 1990.
The UBCIC fully support the highlights identified by Xeni Gwet'in's legal counsel of the decision such as:
* Rejection of the Crown's "impoverished" and "post-stamp size" interpretation of the law of aboriginal title;
* Judicial recognition of roughly 200,000 hectares of Tsilhqot'in aboriginal title. Judicial recognition of the Tsilhqot'in aboriginal right to hunt and trap for all relevant purposes, including trade for a moderate livelihood.
* Aboriginal title lands are constitutionally immune from the application of both British Columbia's Forest Act and Limitations Act, pursuant to s. 91(24) of Constitution Act, 1867.
* Section 88 of the Indian Act does not incorporate province laws of general application so as to interfere with aboriginal title lands.
* Timber on Aboriginal title lands is not "Crown timber" under British Columbia's Forest Act;
* Implementation of forestry land use planning on lands subject to Tsilhqot'in aboriginal title or aboriginal hunting/trapping rights is an infringement of these rights.
* Failure to gather baseline date on species diversity and abundance in an area slated for industrial activity is fatal to Crown attempts to justification such conduct.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip (250) 490-5314
UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.