The forests north of Campbell River have fueled the region’s prosperity for decades. An Aboriginal rights laywers poses the idea that forests and other land-based resources might provide a greater return to the province if they were owned by First Nations. File photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror

The forests north of Campbell River have fueled the region’s prosperity for decades. An Aboriginal rights laywers poses the idea that forests and other land-based resources might provide a greater return to the province if they were owned by First Nations. File photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror

British Columbians in for a big adjustment with Aboriginal title settlement, lawyer says

The shift in ownership will be from what is normally called Crown ownership to Indigenous ownership

British Columbians are in for a big shock when ownership of large parts of the province switches from the Crown to First Nations, says Aboriginal rights and title lawyer Jack Woodward.

Woodward, who acts on behalf of First Nations in court, believes it’s going to be a big adjustment but that’s going to be a good thing for the province.

“Over the next generation, we’re going to see a replacement of ownership of large parts of the province,” Woodward said during a one-hour presentation hosted by the Campbell River Mirror on Zoom March 18 entitled Understanding Indigenous Rights and Title in Canada.

The shift in ownership will be from what is normally called Crown ownership to Indigenous ownership, “Not for the entire province but…for fairly large chunks of it,” he said.

The public was invited to listen into a conversation between Woodward and Binny Paul, the Campbell River Mirror’s Local Journalism Initiative Reporter. Woodward is currently representing the Nuchatlaht First Nation, which has received a trial date of March 15, 2022 from the B.C. Supreme Court to proceed with its Aboriginal land title case. The Nuchatlaht case is significant as it could pave the way for other First Nations in B.C.

RELATED: B.C. Supreme Court sets trial date set for Nuchatlaht First Nation’s historic land title case

The Nuchatlaht case is a direct application of the precedent-setting 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, where the Supreme Court of Canada granted declaration of aboriginal title to more than 1,700 square kilometres of land in the Interior of British Columbia to the First Nation. Woodward was the lawyer for Tsilhqot’in Nation too.

In his March 18 presentation, Woodward said the change in ownership of large chunks of land in B.C. from Crown – or public – ownership to Indigenous ownership means that the land will be under local control. It won’t be under the control of distant capitals – like Victoria and Ottawa – nor foreign corporate head offices.

“Unfortunately, the history of British Columbia has been a history of resource giveaways so that now much of the forests of British Columbia are actually owned by corporations that are owned by foreigners,” Woodward said, “so the province doesn’t belong to British Columbia now anyway.”

But you can expect that to change and it’s going to be a “big shock and a big surprise and a big adjustment for the system to get used to,” Woodward said.

“There’s going to be a different landlord,” he said. “It’s going to be a local landlord, not a foreign landlord.”

Two conditions lead Woodward to the belief that that will be a good thing for the province: a traditional respect for land and the environment in First Nations culture and a legal obligation to protect it.

Traditionally speaking, you might say that First Nations are more likely to be better stewards of the land than in the present system where you have governments in Ottawa and Victoria that are somewhat remote from the local territory. But Woodward says First Nations are more respectful of the natural environment and the lands around, generally speaking, and have a natural inclination to be better stewards of the lands and resources.

“Close to the land, close to their resources,” Woodward said.

Meanwhile, legally, precedent under Canadian law has established that there is an inherent limitation on Aboriginal title and that limit is that First Nations own the land but they’re not allowed to destroy it, Woodward said. Unlike the governments of both Canada and British Columbia which claim such a degree of ownership to the extent that it allows them to destroy land.

“When First Nations do assume ownership of their land, they, unlike federal and provincial governments, are not allowed to destroy the fundamental economic value and productivity of the land,” Woodward said, “so, they’re forced by our legal system to be good stewards.”

Woodward’s wide-ranging presentation touched on numerous other aspects of the Aboriginal rights and title question, including the precedent setting royal Proclamation of 1763 as well as the implications of the Indian Act, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People and more.


@AlstrT
editor@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

First NationsIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Hotel Zed Tofino. (Westerly file photo)
Two Tofino businesses up for building awards

14th annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read