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Sinixt file appeal on BC Supreme Court ruling

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

An appeal has been filed by the Sinixt Nation’s lawyer over the Feb. 25 BC Supreme Court ruling in Vancouver that dismissed their judicial review application.

David Aaron confirmed the Sinixt petitioners filed a notice of appeal Thursday with the British Columbia Court of Appeal, regarding application made by way of petition against the Province’s issuance of a timber sale licence on Perry Ridge.

The appeal is from the Feb. 25 decision of the BC Supreme Court Judge J. Willcock —dismissed “by way of oral reasons” — that has still not been released in writing. 

Aboriginal rights have developed over the years and are guaranteed under Section 35 of the Constitution, Aaron wrote.

“But what remains undeveloped are the procedural avenues which need to accompany those aboriginal rights if they are to be exercised in any meaningful way,” he said. 

“The court of appeal will be moved at the hearing of this appeal to consider these complicated issues; issues which are at the heart of the process of reconciliation between Crown sovereignty and the prior existence of Aboriginal societies.”

Willcock dismissed the Sinixt application on the basis the Sinixt “are not a group capable of sufficiently precise definition with respect to their group membership.”

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.

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.

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 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.”