City council is offering to co-host a community forum with the Tsilhqot’in National Government to gain understanding of the effects of the Supreme Court’s recent declaration of title to the Tsilhqot’in for approximately 2,000 square kilometres in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region.
The move comes after Coun. Ivan Bonnell submitted a report, suggesting council acknowledge the Supreme Court decision, send a letter of congratulations to the TNG, and offer to co-host a forum.
“First Nations people are getting their grievances addressed on long outstanding issues on Aboriginal title,” Bonnell said during the council meeting Tuesday. “What that means in terms of our region I think is enough for the Tsilhqot’in people to advise us on how they are now going to proceed with their lands and what activities may or may not be compromised if their consent is required.”
Bonnell quoted from the court decision saying the nature of Aboriginal title is that it confers on the group that holds it, the exclusive right to decide how the land is used and the right to benefit from those uses, subject to the restriction that the uses must be consistent with the group nature of the interest and the enjoyment of the land by future generations.
“It’s a tremendous victory for our First Nations,” Bonnell told council. “In terms of our official community plan we are committed to working with First Nations in the region and I think this is a perfect opportunity for us to demonstrate how we are fully behind that commitment.”
Mayor Kerry Cook agreed with Bonnell’s recommendation and said she had spoken with Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah) Chief Roger William after the decision came down.
“This also came up at our meeting with the Northern Shuswap chiefs last week as an opportunity to educate and inform each other,” Cook said.
Cook reminded council that Premier Christy Clark has called a meeting with all of B.C.’s chiefs for Sept. 11.
“It will be an historical meeting with the caucus and all B.C. chiefs not only to discuss this decision but how they are going to be working together moving forward.”
Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the TNG, welcomed the idea saying the enormity of what the TNG has accomplished is apparent.
“It is being viewed by First Nations right across Canada as a positive story,” Alphonse said. “I appreciate the leadership shown by IvanBonnell.”
Council voted unanimously in favour of Bonnell’s suggestion. Coun. Sue Zacharias was absent.