PORT HARDY—With the blessing of the Kwakiutl Hereditary Chief, the Kwakiutl Indian Band held a peaceful protest last Thursday, January 9, at an Island Timberlands logging operations in Port Hardy.
Band members carried signs proclaiming the area as Kwakiutl traditional territory and gathered at the entrance of the site. Fallers in the area reportedly ceased operations and left the site, as the protesters drummed and sang.
In a release, the band said that, “This logging is symptomatic of the long-standing disregard by Canada and BC to act honourably to meet their commitments and obligations of the ‘Treaty of 1851’.”
A B.C. Supreme Court decision on June 17, 2013, upheld the Kwakiutl’s Douglas Treaty and “encouraged and challenged” both the federal and provincial governments to begin honourable negotiations with the First Nation
“without any further litigation, expense or delay.”
Band representatives explained that logging operation along Byng Road is in the area of a cultural use trail and said they had not been consulted before falling began in the area.
“The Kwakiutl people have never ceded, surrendered, or in any way relinquished aboriginal title and rights to our traditional territories,” explained the release. “We continue to hold aboriginal title, and to exercise and assert our aboriginal rights in and interests in all of our traditional territories. Our aboriginal title and rights are recognized and protected by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which recognizes our occupation of the territories before the assertion of British sovereignty and affirms our rights to the exclusive use and occupancy of the land and to choose what uses the land can be put to. These Constitutional Rights apply throughout our traditional territories.”
Economic Development Manager Casey Larochelle said that the continued failure of B.C. and Canada to recognize the unextinguished title and rights of the Kwakiutl reflected poorly on the ‘Honour of the Crown.’
Lands and Resources Coordinator Tom Child explained that current logging operations were taking place in a culturally sensitive area, including trapline sites and a medicinal plant harvest site in addition to the trail.
The representatives expressed frustration at the Crown’s minimization and “narrow legal interpretation” of the Douglas Treaty and the lack of meaningful consultation.
“Canada and B.C. need to consult in good faith with Kwakiutl to create a new course for comprehensive implementation of the Treaty of 1851,” said the release. “Rather than simply being an archaic document with narrow legal interpretation, this treaty should be seen as a living document to guide how the Kwakiutl and the new settlers to this land co-exist. There is a shared history and a future that will continue to bind ‘all peoples’ together.”