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

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Red dresses to be hung from Ladysmith to Oyster Bay, showing solidarity against racism

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Volunteers tend to White Rock’s waterfront native plant demonstration garden, during a work party Saturday (May 5). (Contributed photo)
Ready your gardens, the pollinators are coming

By R. Quinlan With the arrival of Spring, this year has more… Continue reading

Bruce Whittington making a founding gift to the Ladysmith Community Foundation Fund, presented to then Nanaimo Foundation Board Chair, Ted Carson. (Submitted photo)
New Ladysmith Community Fund set up to support local charities

The fund will be managed by the Nanaimo Foundation and all funds will remain in Ladysmith

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

‘For Sale’ signs quickly turned to ‘Sold’ signs as record-high demand for housing meets record-low inventory. (Cole Schisler photo)
Multiple offers and unconditional sales rampant in Ladysmith housing market

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Zone 3 director Susan Perrey says the market is ‘crazy all around’

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Nanaimo flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

Most Read