B.C. logging company won’t dispute First Nation land claim, lawyer tells court 

VANCOUVER- A lawyer for a British Columbia logging company says his client takes no position on whether a First Nation has title over an area it claims on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

However, Geoff Plant urged the B.C. Supreme Court to consider how a declaration recognizing the Nuchatlaht First Nation’s rights and title would affect third parties, including Western Forest Products, which is named as a defendant in the case.

The Nuchatlaht lawsuit asks the court to recognize its rights and title over 230 square kilometres of land on Nootka Island with a declaration that would nullify the application of B.C.’s Forest Act and put a stop to logging in the area.

Western Forest Products has provincially approved logging tenures in the area and Plant told today’s hearing that the lawsuit, as it’s structured, is “incapable of fully addressing the rights of third parties and the public interest.”

He says if the Nuchatlaht’s rights and title over the area are proven, the best way to achieve reconciliation would be for the court to suspend making any declaration in order to allow time for his client’s interests to be taken into account.

The Nuchatlaht claim the B.C. and federal governments have denied their rights by approving logging and “effectively dispossessing”

them of the land.

In a response to the lawsuit, the B.C. government denies that the Nuchatlaht hold Aboriginal title over the area and says it has met its obligations under agreements with the nation related to forest resources.

Jack Woodward, a lawyer for the nation, told Justice Elliott Myers on Monday that the claim meets the test for Aboriginal title set out in the Supreme Court of Canada’s precedent-setting Tsilhqot’in decision in 2014. That case recognized the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s rights and title over a swath of its traditional territory in B.C.’s central Interior, not only to historic village sites.

 

Woodward, who represented the Tsilhqot’in, said expert evidence shows the Nuchatlaht occupied and used the claim area before and during 1846, when the Crown asserted sovereignty over what is now B.C.

A lawyer for the federal government said Tuesday that it intends to “maintain a minimal role, given that there is no relief sought against the federal Crown.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2022.

 

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