Sinixt application on Perry Ridge 'dismissed' in BC Supreme Court
By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
The Sinixt Nation’s judicial review application was dismissed in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday.
The application — made by way of petition against the Province’s issuance of a timber sale licence on Perry Ridge — was dismissed “by way of oral reasons” by Judge J. Willcock on the basis the Sinixt “are not a group capable of sufficiently precise definition with respect to their group membership,” said Sinixt lawyer David Aaron in a statement after the judgement.
“We say that the court failed to deal with this question with sufficient regard to the historical factors that have affected the Sinixt,” he said.
Aaron pointed to the establishment of an international boundary through Sinixt territory, subsequent restriction against free passage across that boundary, and the Crown’s failure to provide adequate reserve land to protect traditional village sites and burial grounds as factors that lead to the “historical disenfranchisement of the Sinixt from statutory rights in Canada.”
That disenfranchisement lost the Sinixt the right to enter and remain in Canada, the right to viable reserve land, the right to membership in an Indian Act band, and the opportunity for representation through a band council.
The court case in Vancouver was the only recourse the Sinixt Nation had, said Aaron, since they had no legal capacity to sue on their own right.
The Sinxit will consider their appeal options once they have had an opportunity to review a written version of the judgment, said Aaron.
The Sinixt will be holding a vigil at the Perry Ridge Forest Service Road site commencing at daybreak on Saturday, Feb. 26.
The Sinixt were contending the Crown failed to do its duty to consult them in the course of issuing Timber Sale Licence A80073 to Kaslo’s Sunshine Logging for the forest on Perry Ridge.
On Nov. 4, 2010, Justice Willcock conditionally upheld the Sinixt’s action of interest to protect Perry Ridge by staying Sunshine Logging’s injunction to remove a November blockade by the Sinixt on a Forest Service access road.
Perry Ridge is the source of drinking water for many residents in the lower Slocan River valley, some 30 kilometres northwest of Nelson.
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.
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.”