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Canada. Nuu-chah-nulth Nations Seek Reconciliation for Rights and Title to Sea Resources
Monday, 04 February 2008
One of the largest Aboriginal fishing cases in Canada will be back in court on February 4th when Nuu-chah-nulth Nations face Canada and British Columbia to have their rights and title to sea resources recognized, respected, and implemented.The trial originally began April 24, 2006, and was adjourned in mid-May by mutual agreement of the parties after hearing from Nuu-chah-nulth elders and experts. The adjournment was extended several months for reasons including the need to implement a court ruling that only Nuu-chah-nulth Nations without overlapping claims could proceed in the current phase of the trial. Eight Nuu-chah-nulth Nations reached historic agreements resolving their overlapping claims and will be proceeding in Phase One. Three Nations will continue as Plaintiffs in the second phase of the trial.
“Historically Nuu-chah-nulth used a variety of mechanisms to solve boundary issues,” said NTC Vice President Dr. Michelle Corfield. “Today we draw upon the wisdom of our ancestors and empower our traditional teachings by sitting down with one another and reaching new agreements.”
The claims of the Nations are based on Aboriginal rights to harvest and sell sea resources, Aboriginal title to fishing territories and fishing sites, and the unique obligations of the Crown arising through the reserve-creation process. Since time immemorial, Nuu-chah-nulth people have built their societies, economies, and culture around fishing. After Confederation, Canada encouraged the Nuu-chah-nulth to remain fishing people by allocating small fishing stations as reserves while denying the larger land claims of the Nuu-chah-nulth. However, over one hundred years of regulations by Canada have diminished Nuu-chah-nulth access, forcing them out of the West Coast fishery.
“Clearly, there will continue to be a fisheries regime on the West Coast of Vancouver Island,” said NTC President Tom Mexsis Happynook. “We want our place in that regime. Nuu-chah-nulth people want a fair share of the resources to provide for our families and our future generations.” Attempts to reach negotiated settlements through the treaty process produced few results. In June of 2003, Nuu-chah-nulth plaintiff Nations filed a Writ of Summons against Canada and British Columbia seeking reconciliation.
“This trial is significant because it allows us to demonstrate our cultural and aboriginal right to the sea resources and to reconcile our rights with the interests of others in the fishery,” said Happynook. “Nuu-chah-nulth believe that reconciliation must start from the recognition of our rights. Based on our experience, judicial determination plays an important role in getting the Parties to the point of reconciliation.”
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