Gitxsan moves forward to evict companies but leaves room for negotiations

APTN National News
The Gitxsan First Nation in British Columbia is moving forward with their eviction notices to companies operating on its lands, including the Canadian National Railway, says the band’s negotiator.

But the negotiator said in an interview with APTN National News they’re being “reasonable” and leaving a bit of wiggle room for last minute negotiations.

“The eviction is going forward,” said Gwaans, whose English name is Beverley Percival. “(But) we’re being reasonable. We’re giving all parties time to act. We’re trying to work with all parties.”

Last month, Gitxsan warned companies operating on their territory they were being evicted and gave them to Aug. 4 to negotiate staying.

They also gave the same deadline to the provincial and federal governments to remove the Gitxsan lands from an offer to neighbouring Indian Act band lands.

That means, to the Gitxsan, the clock would reset and they’d begin “good faith negotiations and reconciliation” with the government over land rights and title.

At a meeting July 30 the 54 hereditary chiefs all voted to enforce the eviction notice on sports fisheries, the forest industry and also named CN Rail, but the eviction notice was for all trains running through the territory, including passenger trains.

Gwaans said Gitxsan has been negotiating with CN but said the burden really comes down to the provincial and federal governments regarding their territories located on 33,000 square kilometres in northwestern BC.

“The liability rests with the Crown,” said Gwaans in a press release issued Tuesday. “We have been reasonable and participated in good faith articulating our interests and desire to achieve reconciliation.”

They also want the governments to obtain consent before carry out business on the territory.

As far as CN is concerned, the issue of evictions is on the governments.

“The British Columbia and Canadian governments are working to address issues raised by Gitxsan chiefs, and CN hopes the process will resolve the situation. Only the governments are in a position to address the outstanding issues,” said spokesman Mark Hallman.

Gwaans said they’ve notified the RCMP of their intention to enforce the evictions.

“We have a conduct for serving the eviction. We have people wearing red and black shirts with Gitxsan on it. It’s not confrontational. It’s not meant to be violent. We’re asking people to respect our rights and title,” said Gwaans.

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