Disappointed but not surprised. That is the reaction of Chief Ann Louie on the federal government’s decision last week to file a judicial review against the Williams Lake Indian Band’s specific claims tribunal.
“Anything we’ve ever tried to do we’ve had to do through the legal system,” Louie said Thursday. “First Nations have won a majority of court cases and still the federal government continues with an outright waste of taxpayers’ money with judicial reviews.”
On Feb. 28, the Specific Claims Tribunal ruled in favour of the WLIB’s claim to land at the foot of Williams Lake.
It includes Williams Creek, Scout Island, the Stampede Grounds, the downtown core of the city of Williams Lake, and a plateau north of the downtown core.
Louie said she is disappointed because originally decisions of the specific claims tribunal were to be final and binding according to the established tribunal and because it was developed through negotiations between the federal justice and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in 2007.
It is the second time the federal government has applied for judicial review of a decision by the tribunal, said AFN National Chief Shawn a-in-chut Atleo.
“Despite its public promises that Specific Claims Tribunal decisions would be final and would represent a lasting resolution of specific claims, First Nations are deeply disappointed and concerned about Canada’s commitment to the fair and just resolution of First Nations claims and the principles of its own Justice at Last policy aimed at resolving claims,” Atleo said in a press release.
Judicial reviews put First Nations at a disadvantage because there is no funding to reply to a judicial review or the lengthy court process that can result, he continued, saying it is regrettable that the spirit of reconciliation facilitated by an impartial body like the Specific Claims Tribunal is being undermined.
Louie also questioned the federal government’s commitment to impartiality, fairness and transparency as it is supposed to be under the tribunal.
WLIB’s was only the third claim that has been completed under the specific claims tribunal.
Osoyoos settled its case, but Kitselas First Nation’s also went to judicial review.
“We anticipated ending up in the same boat so we’ve partnered with Kitselas to challenge the federal government in a court case that’s occurring in Vancouver on April 7 and 8,” Louie said.
The Specific Claims Tribunal awards monetary compensation only, to a maximum of $150 million each, not land.