April 05

The Question of “Certainty” in the Provincial Election.

The writ has officially been issued to begin procedures toward the May election that will determine the next Provincial government mandate. What does this have to do with Aboriginal issues? Based upon the history between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in BC, the politics in this province are intricately tied to Aboriginal issues, particularly that of Aboriginal title and rights. The economic well being of this province is still dependent upon the ability to access the natural resources that are within the territories of Aboriginal peoples where title and rights continue to exist. The question that must be addressed is will the accessing of said resources continue to occur with the ongoing disregard of legal principles established by the Supreme Court of Canada or can a path toward reconciliation between Aboriginal peoples and the Provincial government be achieved?

The affirmation from the Supreme Court of Canada of the continuing existence of Aboriginal title (a pre-existing legal property right in the land based upon original occupation) was finally achieved in 1997 with the Delgamuukw decision. There a path toward reconciliation between Aboriginal and Crown title was described by the Court however, the Province carried on with business as usual, refusing to carry out its duty to consult about Aboriginal title or have the needs, rights and title of Aboriginal peoples accommodated. Instead, they argued that Aboriginal title must be proven before any of their duties were required.

The Haida and Taku River Tlingit challenged this provincial policy and conduct and, as a result, the Supreme Court of Canada completely rejected the argument of the Province stating that the duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal title and rights exists and is grounded in the honour of the Crown. The Court found that this duty is necessary to protect the land prior to the achievement of reconciliation. These recent court decisions of November 2004 dealt with the theme of reconciliation and accommodation as the essential basis of the Aboriginal / Crown relationship.

Following the Haida and Taku River decisions,

Cathy Narcisse First Published in Bridge River Lillooet News April 2005
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