(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – December 20, 2016) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), supports the Neskonlith Indian Band’s demands that the province rescind a permit issued for logging 28 hectares of Secwepemc territory near Harper Lake south of Chase. The Crown cut blocks are just above Neskonlith reserve #2, an ecologically sensitive area for Rocky Mountain Elk and a contentious area near the land disputed in the 1999 Harper Lake Logging Case.
Chief Judy Wilson, Chief of Neskonlith Indian Band and Secretary-Treasurer of the UBCIC, states that “only First Nations have decision making authority regarding forestry in our territories. Consent is needed from the First Nation and the province must meet environmental responsibilities. The economic benefit of the First Nation and its ownership of the trees must also be taken into account.” To date, over 150 court case decisions ruled Aboriginal title exists and must be recognized and that First Nations have rights to harvest which includes forestry operations.
Following the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilqhot’in Decision, reinforcing Aboriginal title and Rights throughout BC, industry and the Province cannot continue with its business as-usual approach, disregarding its duties and obligations to First Nations.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the UBCIC, declares “this territory has never been sold, surrendered or ceded. Indigenous Rights and Title are being trampled despite Canada’s unqualified implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which clearly and definitively outlines the states responsibility to acquire the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples. Clearly, this essential requirement has not been met.”
The UBCIC calls up on Christy Clark, Minister Thomson, and the Okanagan Shuswap Natural Resource District to immediately rescind the logging permit and to enter into a respectful and responsible dialogue with the Neskonlith Indian Band to jointly work towards a just solution.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231
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