Sinixt claim BC Timber Sales did not consult in issuing timber sale licence and stage protest
By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
The one question BC Timber Sales forgot in their due diligence to allow logging on Perry Ridge was to ask the Sinixt Nation what they thought of issuing a timber sale licence for the parcel of land.
As of Tuesday, the Sinixt have sent a message to BC Timber Sales, notifying the Crown corporation they have established and occupied a “protest camp” obstructing access to the Perry Ridge Forest Service Road.
The Sinixt are contending the Crown failed to do its duty to consult the Sinixt in the course of issuing Timber Sale Licence A80073 to Sunshine Logging, said their lawyer, David Aaron.
The duty to consult First Nations on a timber sale licence arises when the Crown has knowledge of a potential Aboriginal claim or right on the land, said Aaron.
Although the Sinixt case for rights and claims is still before the court to have their “extinct” status lifted with the federal government, the issue on Perry Ridge is not about extinct status but on the duty to consult aboriginal people, said Aaron.
“While existence of a potential claim is essential to begin the process of consultation,” he explained, “proof the claim will succeed is not essential to trigger the duty to consult.”
Aaron said the Province’s decision to issue Timber Sale Licence A80073 has adverse impacts on the Sinixt’s pending Aboriginal claims and rights.
The camp on the forest service road is strictly a Sinixt Camp, said Marilyn Burgoon, president of the Perry Ridge Water Users Association (PRWUA), one of the groups who opposed the granting of the licence.
She said the PRWUA were participants in the Commission on Resource and Environment Slocan Valley Pilot Project, where Sinixt (Arrow Lakes) were recognized as the First Nations representatives.
“The Perry Ridge Water Users support the Sinixt stance because the Sinixt assert their aboriginal rights in a manner which is consistent with the community’s aspirations,” she said.
The PRWUA was concerned the logging would affect water quality, quantity, and timing of flow, increase sedimentation into the Slocan and Little Slocan river systems, create geological mass failures (landslides) and contribute to the extinction of some fish species.
Other Crown agencies such as BC Hydro have been actively consulting the Sinixt, Aaron said, but the Crown agency BC Timber Sales failed to do so.
According to Aaron, the Sinixt have been demanding consultation regarding development plans on Perry Ridge since at least 1997. A letter of Oct. 7, 2008 from Aaron asking for the Crown to consult with the Sinixt on Perry Ridge received no reply from BC Timber Sales.
The Sinixt have contended that industrial development on Perry Ridge could jeopardize Sinixt archaeological sites, exacerbate geological instability with the risk of slope failure, disrupt water quality and quantity, and threaten endangered species over which the Sinixt exercise “aboriginal rights.”
A representative of BC Timber Sales was unavailable for comment.
The resolution drafted by Aaron on the Sinixt’s demands was passed in accordance with wbuplak’n, the Sinixt’s cultural law of the land which sets out their territorial responsibility to all land, water, plant, animal and cultural resources within the Sinixt territory.