Last week the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the Specific Claims Tribunal that had ruled in favour of the Williams Lake Indian Band village site specific claim in 2014.
“Justice has been plucked from the hands of our community,” said WLIB Chief Ann Louie. “The Court approached the judicial review more in the manner of an appeal, and we consider the decision unjust, unfair and unlawful.”
On Monday the band’s leadership was meeting with legal counsel to review the decision and determine what steps to take next.
The land subject to the claim is at the foot of Williams Lake.
The area includes Williams Creek, Scout Island, the Stampede Grounds, the downtown core of the city, and a plateau north of the downtown core.
Specific Claims Tribunals do not return lands to First Nations, but will instead financially compensate them to a maximum of $150 million.
“Our concern is the judicial review was treated like a court of appeal and when we were there in court in May 2015 many members of our community and our council felt at the time it was wrong the way it was handled,” Louie said, noting the act says the judicial review is there to judge whether the judge erred in applying the act itself not to retry the case,.
Band Councillor Chris Wycotte said he left the appeal back in May feeling apprehensive.
“I said we might as well prepare to go to the Supreme Court then,” he said Monday.
In the original tribunal decision it was determined the Colony of British Columbia breached its lawful obligations when it failed to protect the Williams Lake Indian Band’s main village from settler pre-emption and reserve those lands for the Band and that Canada failed to fulfill its fiduciary obligations to the Band when it failed to take measures to return the village lands to them.
In a statement issued Friday the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said the Federal Court substituted vastly different conclusions based on its own review of the facts of the case and dismissed the Band’s claim on the basis that they received alternate reserve lands as a replacement for their village.
“Canada must seriously reflect on the paternalistic, overreaching nature and injustice of the Federal Court’s decision,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said. “This ruling completely undermines the independence and authority of the Tribunal that Canada established through legislation to restore legitimacy to the specific claims process and in so doing further erodes First Nations confidence in the process to resolve these grievances.”