Williams Lake city council has come out unanimously in support of the Williams Lake Indian Band’s village site claim for compensation.
During a special council meeting held Tuesday, Nov. 1, Coun. Scott Nelson presented a report he said he had authored, but was a team effort by the entire council.
All of mayor and council endorsed the report.
“Williams Lake Indian Band was awarded the site claim once, so let’s get on with it and stop wasting taxpayers’ money,” Nelson said after the meeting. “Instead of putting money into lawsuits, let’s put it into the pockets of First Nations because they are going to spend it locally.”
Pleased the resolution is going forward, WLIB councillor Willie Sellars said the band is excited the city is stepping up to support the band.
“By them showing their support for something that’s within city boundaries goes a long way to rekindling that relationship and building that relationship,” Sellars said. “We have a lot of things that are going to benefit from it because of the close proximity Williams Lake Indian Band has to Williams Lake. The only way we grow as an economy and a community is by working together.”
The move by council will only strengthen the relationship between the two communities, Sellars said.
Nelson said the there is no land involved in the claim, that it is about compensation.
“The majority of people will understand this,” he said of the move by city council. “WLIB has been double crossed and we need to put the pressure on all levels of government now.” Here Nelson talks during the special meeting
A Williams Lake city councillor is asking his fellow councillors to support the Williams Lake Indian Band’s village site claim.
In a report council will consider at a special meeting Tuesday, Nov. 1, Coun. Scott Nelson is proposing that council take a position of support for the band’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada with respect to the Specific Claims Tribunal’s decision on the village site claim.
Specific Claims Tribunals do not return lands to First Nations, but will instead financially compensate them to a maximum of $150 million.
“It’s a big move on our part in terms of reconciling and moving towards helping our neighbours,” Nelson told the Tribune.
In his report Nelson said the Supreme Court of Canada needs to uphold the Specific Claims Tribunal’s acknowledgement of the wrongful dispossession of the Band’s Village Lands prior to Confederation and further, that Council confirm it recognizes and appreciates that the Williams Lake Indian Band is not seeking aboriginal title to the disputed land, but should be awarded compensation under this process.
And that council, he added, encourage the federal and provincial governments to rectify Canada’s conflict of interest in adjudicating this claim, and restore confidence in the integrity and reconciliation of the Williams Lake Indian Band’s specific claims process.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the Williams Lake Indian Band village site specific claim, which prompted Nelson to act.
In 2014, the band won a Specific Claims Tribunal, but it was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal in March 2016.
At the time, WLIB Chief Ann Louie said justice had been plucked from the hands of the community.
“The Court approached the judicial review more in the manner of an appeal, and we consider the decision unjust, unfair and unlawful.”
In March Louie told the Tribune the band was going to seek legal counsel in preparation of going to the Supreme Court.
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.