Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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First Nation issues ‘eviction’ notice

Keith Baldrey / Burnaby Now

Well, that didn’t take long. Last week, I wrote that, while the Supreme Court of Canada decision granting aboriginal title didn’t mean the sky was falling, there would certainly be stormy times ahead.

And now one particular storm has appeared on the horizon, and it looks foreboding.

The Gitxsan First Nations in northwest B.C. has issued “eviction” notices to CN Rail, forest industries and sports fisheries to vacate the land and cease all activities by Aug. 4, unless they receive the consent of the band’s hereditary chiefs to be there.

The band has seized upon a section of that court decision that sets out conditions that must be met for a First Nations to establish aboriginal title. One of those tests is that a band must prove it had “exclusive historical occupation” of the land in question.

“Exclusivity can be established by proof that others were excluded from the land or by proof that others were only allowed access to the land with the permission of the claimant group,” the court wrote in the decision.

One would think the wording applies to the situation that was there “historically,” or before contact with European settlers who ultimately occupied the land.

However, the Gitxsan appear to take the novel approach that excluding people from the land it claims title to must take place right now, in order to meet one of the tests to establish title to the land.

I don’t know where this is headed, but it seems things could get ugly – particularly if the Gitxsan tries to forcibly evict or blockade one of the parties it is trying to “exclude” from the land they are laying claim to.

Presumably, a court will weigh in on this matter. But this is a prime example of a situation that can cause potential investors to pull back from putting money into B.C.’s economy, because of the uncertainty of just how extensive First Nations’ powers ultimately are in this province.

The Gitxsan will undoubtedly not be the last First Nations band to try to exercise more control of the land they are claiming title to before that title is actually proven. Meanwhile, circle Aug. 4 on your calendar.

*

The looming Surrey mayoralty race is shaping up as a warm-up exercise for the next federal election for a number of major political operatives in this province.

Already, a bunch of well-known backroom political organizers are getting involved in the various camps.

And they have ties to both the federal Conservative and Liberal parties, and it appears some of them are working beside each other.

Linda Hepner, the would-be successor to Diane Watts as the Surrey First mayoralty candidate, has veteran political strategist Pat Kinsella in her corner, but he’s got plenty of company. Communications pros Norm Stowe and Laura Ballance and veteran political organizers Stu Braddock and Prem Vinning are also helping Hepner.

Barinder Rasode, the independent councillor who is expected to challenge Hepner, has veteran federal Liberal organizer Mark Marissen running her team.

But NDP stalwart Moe Sihota is there as well, and ex-B.C. Liberal pollster Dmitri Pantazopoulos (one of the few people to accurately predict the last provincial election) is assisting, as is Kareem Allam (Kevin Falcon’s deputy campaign manager in the last B.C. Liberal leadership race).

I’m not sure how Doug McCallum, the former mayor trying to get his old job back, will fare in landing the same number of experienced hands.

But I suppose one reason (aside from personal ties and loyalties) all these political pros are flocking to Surrey is that it may be the only intriguing mayoralty race in all of Metro Vancouver.

In 2011, almost all incumbent mayors were re-elected, and I suspect the same thing will happen this fall.

There seems little reason to think Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart or Delta Mayor Lois Jackson are vulnerable to a strong challenge (unless any of them decide against running again).

The wild card, of course, is Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who has been making news (for all the wrong reasons) these days.

Former Vancouver Sun editor Kirk Lapointe announced this week that he will run as the mayoral candidate for the ironically named Non-Partisan Association.

Robertson will likely not face a credible challenge from the left, as the COPE party has been captured by fringe elements who like to shout slogans at each other.

But if the NPA can get its act together, there no reason to think the party can’t take a run at the sitting mayor.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global B.C.

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