Large parts of Stanley Park, Galiano Island and Saltspring Island are claimed by a small Indian band that has been largely overlooked in British Columbia, although its main village has already been the target of Navy fire. British.
In a notice of claim filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Chief Raymond Wilson and a group he identifies as the Hwlitsum First Nation are asking for the return of key lands and financial compensation for the loss of access to it. which it claims as its traditional territory.
The claim says the gang were essentially driven into exile in 1862 when a British gunboat bombarded the site of a village in Lamalcha Bay after alleged indigenous attacks on settlers.
“The destruction of the village was an unprovoked and unlawful attack constituting both a war crime and an explicit breach of trust,” said the notice of complaint.
Jeffrey Rath, an Alberta-based lawyer representing the Hwlitsum, said the band was displaced from its land by the British attack and its members were subsequently absorbed by other coastal bands. The federal and provincial governments do not recognize them.
But Mr Rath said the Hwlitsum have never ceased to exist – and now they are stepping forward to reaffirm their tribal identity and claim land.
“The case concerns a First Nation that the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia have ignored for 150 years as heirs to some of the West Coast’s most cherished titles, including a significant portion of Stanley Park Mr. Rath said Monday.
“We have documented evidence that the current chief’s great-grandparents were driven away at gunpoint, where their families had been under Indigenous occupation from time immemorial.”
He said the band claimed all of Galiano Island, half of Saltspring Island, land on the Fraser River, most of Stanley Park and Deadman Island, a four hectare island just off the Park Seawall in Vancouver Harbor. The federal government has long used the small island as a naval reserve.
Mr Rath said his clients recognize that much of the land claimed by Hwilitsum as traditional territory is now in private hands and that the Band is not asking for that property to be returned.
He said the lawsuit was brought after the British Columbia government rejected a request by the Hwlitsum that the band be recognized as the rightful owner of Brunswick Point, land in Delta that the province is considering selling.
Mr Rath said the group went to court this fall to seek an injunction to block the sale, but the province subsequently vowed to stay the transaction until a hearing in March.
In an email statement, the British Columbia Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said the Hwlitsum “are not a recognized band under the federal Indian Act.”
The statement said the quality of the candidates will be tested at the court hearing in March.
âWith respect to the properties in Delta cited in the notice of civil claim, the province has a long-term plan to sell 450 acres of Crown land on Brunswick Point. However, there are a number of technical and legal issues that the province must resolve before selling any properties, unrelated to the litigation filed by the Hwlitsum group, âthe statement said. âThe province believes it has fulfilled its consultation and accommodation obligations and is moving forward with the disposition of the Brunswick Point lands.
Patricia MacNeil, a spokesperson for the City of Vancouver, said in an email that the city is aware of the lawsuit and is currently reviewing it. Federal officials could not immediately be reached for comment.