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Xeni Gwet'in Rights and Title and Wild Horses at Risk PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Wednesday, 22 February 2006 16:05
Xeni Gwet'in Rights and Title and Wild Horses at Risk

Friends of the Nemaiah Valley
- David Williams - A recent B.C. Court of Appeal decision handed down a judgment that severely curtailed financial assistance for the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation and Chief Roger William in their case for rights and title in the Supreme Court of B.C. Following this decision, Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun published a story about the court costs that condemned the expense of the trial. He did not contact Chief Roger or any of his legal team to check facts before writing the article. He did not investigate and compare the amounts spent on Chief Roger's case with the amounts that have been spent by the Crown fighting it. He did not compare the cost of the trial with the cost of the Treaty Process, which is approximately 100 times more expensive, yet going nowhere.

http://fonv.ca

Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2006 09:32:37 -0800
From: Friends of the Nemaiah Valley < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Subject: Xeni Gwet'in Rights and Title and Wild Horses at Risk

Dear Friends of the Nemaiah Valley:

Here is a special message to all supporters of FONV. This is an important
up-date on the court case and the Xeni Gwet'in fight for rights and title in
the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It is directed to all of you who have
shown support for the valiant struggle of an embattled people and their long
struggle for justice within Canada's court system.

It is also for those interested in the future of the ?Elegesi Qiyus Wild
Horse Preserve and the protection of Canada's last few remaining wild
horses.

Only the Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government and this court case now stand
between the pristine environment of the Preserve and its destruction by
industrial clear-cut logging.

A recent B.C. Court of Appeal decision handed down a judgment that severely
curtailed financial assistance for the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation and Chief
Roger William in their case for rights and title in the Supreme Court of
B.C. Following this decision, Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun published a
story about the court costs that condemned the expense of the trial. He did
not contact Chief Roger or any of his legal team to check facts before
writing the article. He did not investigate and compare the amounts spent on
Chief Roger's case with the amounts that have been spent by the Crown
fighting it. He did not compare the cost of the trial with the cost of the
Treaty Process, which is approximately 100 times more expensive, yet going
nowhere.

Friends of the Nemaiah Valley, as did Chief Roger William, responded to this
article with a letter to the editor of both the Vancouver Sun and the
Williams Lake Tribune. While both letters were printed in the Tribune, the
Sun agreed to publish our letter only after a complaint was registered with
the editor. It was finally published February 2, 2006, and a copy is
appended to this message.

The sting of the Court of Appeal decision and the resulting bad publicity is
that the Xeni Gwet'in are left without enough funds to pay for legal
counsel. Jack Woodward has a large crew of lawyers employed at Woodward &
Co. in the final stages of the case. These salaried lawyers are employees,
yet the reduction in the costs order does not provide enough money to pay
their salaries, overhead, etc. The alternatives are not pretty. Either
Woodward & Co. continues to lose money and risk serious financial
difficulty, or lawyers will be taken off the case, leaving the trial
unfinished.

However, some possible solutions are in the works.

In response to the Court of Appeal decision Chief Roger has initiated an
appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. He must obtain "leave" to appeal, and
the documents are in the process of being filed seeking such leave. He has
also prepared an application back to Justice Vickers attempting to see what
possibilities exist under the current situation created by the Court of
Appeal. The irony is that the Plaintiff's case is now complete. All that is
left is the Crown's case, set to begin on March 6th, and final argument,
which could take place as soon as September this year. Right now, the legal
team is preparing to cross-examine the Crown's witnesses, and is preparing
for final argument. Throughout this long trial, it has often seemed that the
Crown's strategy has been to keep the matter from reaching a conclusion, one
way or the other. But after all this time Chief Roger and the Xeni Gwet'in
are determined to see the case through.

We believe that it is of the utmost importance that the case reach a
conclusion, and not be de-railed at this late stage. The stakes are simply
too high. The refugium that is the Brittany Triangle and all the lands of
the ?Elegesi Qiyus Wild Horse Preserve - Canada's "national treasure" -
cannot be allowed to go down to a misconceived grab at virtually the last
wilderness in the Tsilhqot'in. They must not be sacrificed to a cynical use
of the court system which frustrates an honourable process so near its
conclusion.

The support of the Friends of the Nemaiah Valley is
vital to ensure that justice is achieved for these valiant people defending
their land.

We will keep in touch as matters develop.

Signed: The Board of Friends of the Nemaiah Valley

 

January 26, 2006

Editor

Williams Lake Tribune

Dear Editor;

We wish to take issue with the belittling tone, and to correct some of the
facts, presented by Ian Mulgrew in his article "Legal Fees in Land Claims
Case Soar" which recently appeared in the Vancouver Sun (Wed., Jan. 11,
2006).

Mulgrew deplores the publicly funded costs associated with the case for
rights and title, William v. B.C., presently before the Supreme Court of
B.C. He says this is a little known legal battle involving a small Indian
band. In fact Chief Roger William is acting on behalf of the Tsilqot'in
National Government in a case for rights and title which has been determined
by the Court to be the most important, and certainly the most advanced in
Canada right now. As Mulgrew himself points out, following on from
Delgamuukw, this may well be the case which eventually leads the Supreme
Court of Canada to decide the nature of aboriginal title in Canada, thus
breaking the deadlock in the Treaty Process, and finally achieving some
legal certainty. The importance to the country of the final decision cannot
be overemphasized. For Justice Mary Southin to wonder whether the land
involved is worth the cost of the case is to miss the mark by a very wide
margin indeed. To the Tsilqot'in people, the issue is their survival as a
people in a land they have called home for time beyond memory. And land
which they have defended and protected from a relentless colonial incursion
for almost two hundred years. The value of that land to them is beyond
price, it is their lifeblood. This might be something hard to understand for
those of us who may boast of having lived here for a mere three or four
generations.

Because of the failure of successive Canadian and provincial governments to
address the issue as they were enjoined to by the Royal Proclamation of 1763
(that not one acre of land shall be removed from native title without a
treaty) we are now obliged, finally, to come to terms with this massive
failure. It would have cost a lot less had things been done properly a long
time ago and in accord with our own law.

One of the chief reasons for the escalating court costs has been the
defendant's, both the federal and the provincial crowns, relentless pursuit
of every means available to draw it out. The Crown claims that aboriginal
people did not exist as a people and lacked a culture or means of governing
themselves. It says they were nomads with no fixed places of abode. These
are arguments which fly in the face of all the facts and scientific
evidence. Yet the claimants are forced by the Crown, over and over again,
and at great expense, to prove what we all know. They did occupy the land
prior to European arrival, and they did have a structured and complex way of
life. That these are ancient and sophisticated cultures entitled to stand on
a par with those of the settlers newly arrived cannot be doubted.

The cost of course is not the real issue, though it rightly exercises Ian
Mulgrew and Justice Mary Southin. The real issue is the nature of aboriginal
title, and that goes for all of B.C. and even Canada. It may "have a
shattering impact upon Confederation". But if that Confederation has been a
built upon a lie and a greedy seizure of someone else's land and resources,
then what is its value? When the nature of aboriginal title is finally
defined and accepted by all parties, both the original inhabitants of this
wonderful land, and those of us who came later to the feast, we will truly
be able to begin to evolve a Confederation of which we can all be proud.
This will be a Confederation built upon the sure foundations of truth and
justice and regard for the First Nations of the land, and of the land
itself. Nothing less will do.

David Williams

President

Friends of the Nemaiah Valley

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 February 2006 16:05
 

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