Jun 10/98: Reform Party challenges Delgamuukw ruling


Vancouver Sun
June 10, 1998, p. A4
Peter O'Neil

[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.]

Ottawa - Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart should hold a town hall meeting in Vancouver to tell citizens whether natives own the city, the Reform party said Tuesday. Reform made the appeal during a vicious second day of Reform's assault on the Supreme Court of Canada's Delgamuukw decision, a December ruling seen as a major advance for aboriginal claims to BC land. "Is the minister prepared to go to Vancouver, hold a town hall meeting, and tell the people who show up there that the city belongs to aboriginals?" Indian Affairs critic Mike Scott (Skeena) asked during question period. "Will she answer the question? Who owns BC?"

Reform wants the federal government to enact legislation to narrow the definition of native title laid out by the Supreme Court in Delgamuukw, a case that began in 1984 when 51 Gitxan and Wet'suwet'en chiefs claimed control over 58,000 square kilometres in northwestern BC. Stewart was equally provocative in responding to Reform's taunts, accusing the party of preferring unilateral federal legislation and military intervention to quash legitimate native demands. She cited Reform's recent proposal that the army be sent in to remove natives living in and claiming the land in the former Ipperwash military camp, 90 kilometres northwest of London, Ontario.

"The only solution in that case was to call in the army," Stewart said. "That must be negotiation Reform-style." She also accused Reformers of being hypocritical in complaining about compensation for Indians at the same time they are demanding justice for hepatitus tainted-blood victims. "Mr. Speaker, they ask how much for land claims but they do not ask how much for hep C," said Stewart. "Where is their compassion here? Systematically they undermine the aboriginal people. It's an outrage." Several Reform MPs asked Stewart to estimate the cost of settling BC land claims that currently blanket the entire province. But she repeatedly refused to provide an answer. "Where is this money going to come from?" asked Reform finance critic Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat).

"Is it going to come from increased taxes or is he (finance Minister Paul Martin) going to cut social programs again?" Reform has said almost nothing about Delgamuukw in the Commons since the December ruling, even though several BC Reform MPs are up in arms over potential costs and economic uncertainty. This weeks offensive signals a return of the party's so-called "red meat" issues after leader Preston Manning acknowledged during the party's recent biennial assembly in London Ontario that some members fear Reform's leadership is watering down its principles in order to attract Eastern Canadians.

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