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

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Police are advising of a scam actively happening in the Kootenay Boundary, one that involves a person trying to sell the victim gold for cash. Problem is, the gold is fake. Photo: Matt Flores on Unsplash
Fake gold scam re-surfaces in the Kootenay Boundary

Victims are approached in high-traffic areas by someone claiming to need emergency cash

Giant prize-winning pumpkins and squash are standard fare at the Pass Creek Fall Fair. Photo: Betsy Kline
Pass Creek Fall Fair cancelled for 2021

Event cancelled for second time

File photo
Help clean up Castlegar during Pitch-In week

Annual clean-up to take place April 18 - 26

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

Most Read