A photo from 2017 shows Nuchatlaht First Nation members gathered outside the Supreme Court in Vancouver after filing the land title case. ( Nuchatlaht First Nation).

A photo from 2017 shows Nuchatlaht First Nation members gathered outside the Supreme Court in Vancouver after filing the land title case. ( Nuchatlaht First Nation).

B.C. Supreme Court set to hear historic Indigenous land title case next year

Nuchatlaht First Nation gets its day in court in March 2022, five years after first filing its case

Nuchatlaht First Nation has received a trial date of March 15, 2022 from the B.C. Supreme Court, to proceed with its Aboriginal land title case.

The First Nation received its trial date last month after filing a case in 2017 to officially recognize its right and title to territory on the north of Nootka Island, off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

Jack Woodward, the lawyer representing the Nuchatlaht said, getting a trail date with a fixed judge is an important step in itself as most often cases like these don’t get to trial or get dropped due to procedural or political reasons, among others.

The trial set for next year already had an interim ruling earlier this month in favour of the First Nation, allowing it to introduce Culturally Modified Trees (CMT) as part of its evidence after Crown counsel argued to exclude archaeological reports prepared by expert Jacob Earnshaw.

Earnshaw was commissioned by the First Nation to perform surveys within the Nuchatlaht claim area on Nootka Island to understand the condition of recorded CMT sites as well as search out and record other previously unrecorded archaeological sites. These records provide a further understanding concerning the use and occupation of the claim area.

The province asked to exclude the report citing Earnshaw’s “bias, novel approach, qualifications and necessity of the opinion.” However the motion was dismissed in court on March 4.

The Nuchatlaht case is significant as it could pave the way for other First Nations in B.C.

The Nuchatlaht case is a direct application of the precedent-setting 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, where the Supreme Court of Canada granted declaration of aboriginal title to more than 1,700 square kilometres of land in British Columbia to the First Nation. The decision stated that a semi-nomadic tribe can claim title even if the land is used sporadically. Woodward was the lawyer for Tsilhqot’in Nation too.

Nuchatlaht’s case will also the first land title to be tested against the backdrop of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that B.C. passed as legislation – DRIPA/ Bill 41 – in 2019.

Last year, in November, the Nuchatlaht had called on the province to honour UNDRIP and drop the “distasteful” legal argument the crown counsel was making – that the First Nation abandoned their territory. They said that the crown counsel had been stalling the case since 2017 by raising “absurd” and expensive arguments for the First Nation community consisting of under 200 members.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

The Nuchatlaht claimed that it was forced out of its traditional territory on Nootka Island, and the land was licensed by the province to logging companies without the consent of the First Nation. Western Forest Products – also a defendant in the case along with the provincial and federal governments – runs its operations on Nootka Island.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hamels Fabrics & Quilting is set to open on April 6 in Sooke. The shop is located at 2044 Otter Point Road. (Mark Martins/Pixabay)
Fabric and quilting store opens doors in Sooke

Shop is filled with all kinds of ‘bright, bold and cheery’ designs

Eli, left, Brent, Lindsay and Ava Wilson. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wilson)
West Shore families share experience in raising a child with autism

Two families reveal some parallels, but circumstances are different for everyone

Kit Thornton, chief aquarist at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, plays with Wanda, the female Giant Pacific octopus currently residing at the centre. The centre will release Wanda back into the wild next month. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
An octopus named Wanda will soon say goodbye to Sidney

Wanda’s personality is ‘complete opposite’ of previous octopus named after Dr. Bonnie Henry

New hours went into effect at Saanich Parks and Public Works Yard for spring and summer seasons on April 6. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Spring, summer hours in effect at Saanich Public Works Yard

Residents reminded to practise social distancing, prepare to unload without staff help

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

Immunization plan comes with built-in options for any unused vaccines at the end of the day

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Most Read