Apr 11/98: BC Premier denies Delgamuukw gives veto power


Vancouver Sun
April 11, 1998
Justine Hunter

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

VICTORIA -- Premier Glen Clark admits his government's ability to process applications for business activities on Crown land is bogging down because of the uncertainty over aboriginal rights. But he insists a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling last December doesn't give native Indians veto power over such applications. The ruling in the so-called Delgamuukw case said the government has a duty to offer something "significantly deeper than mere consultation" with First Nations when making decisions regarding Crown lands that are subject to land claims. "Some cases may even require the full consent of an aboriginal nation," it said.

Clark admitted the "aboriginal question makes things more complicated and does slow down some of the approvals we would like."But he added: "That does not mean that we can't proceed with applications. In fact we are, so the question is making sure we do the consultation that's required before we make decisions and that's what we are trying to do."In response to the Delgamuukw decision, the First Nations Summit has called for a freeze on further development of Crown lands and resources, pending the "full and informed consent" of native Indians.According to a government report, development on Crown land is worth $2.9 billion a year to the economy and supports 44,000 jobs.As well, the government is hoping to boost the sale of Crown lands this year -- from $35 million last year to $67 million -- reducing the base that can be subject to land claims."

"The policy is, basically, that we consult with aboriginal people as required by the Supreme Court decision, and then we carry on and do business," Clark said in an interview. "Consultation doesn't mean that we give veto power to aboriginal people, consultation means we consult with them."The Liberal Opposition raised the issue of delays in Crown land development this week, releasing a leaked government document that says B.C. lost 20,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in economic activity last year because of a increasing delays in processing applications. While the report blamed government cutbacks for the delays, it also points to a brewing dispute between the B.C. government and aboriginals.

Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit said the province is going to have to realize it can't proceed with business as usual."The Supreme Court of Canada recognized the existence of aboriginal title as a legal interest in land and in that case it doesn't mean that anyone -- the federal or the provincial government -- can run roughshod over that title, even by consulting us and then going on and doing their own business," John said. "It doesn't work like that."He noted talks with the federal and provincial governments are continuing on how to proceed, but he indicated Clark's position is not helpful."What the province is saying is, 'We have jurisdiction and we are going to do everything to exercise our authority, come hell or high water.'" If that's the approach, it's going to create problems for us," he said.

"In order to minimize the fight and and the problems in the future, we are saying, 'Don't issue any more licences until you have a way in which you involve First Nations and the First Nations have a say in their territories where aboriginal title continues to exist.' "The federal government, which holds just a small portion of land in the province, has taken the position that if aboriginal title is impacted by a decision on federal land, First Nations must consent to any changes.

Letters to the Vancouver Sun: sunletters@pacpress.southam.ca

Back to SIS