Sand spit-dune habitat on James Island’s north spit – critical habitat for several endangered species. (Photo courtesy the Nature Conservancy of Canada)

UPDATE: Tsawout First Nation sues for the return of James Island

Civil claim alleges province, feds failed to live up to terms of an 1852 treaty

A multi-million dollar private Island near Sidney is part of a civil court action launched Wednesday, January 24 by the Tsawout First Nation.

The Tsawout, through the DGW Law Corporation, are suing Canada and British Columbia for the return of the 330-hectare island, located directly across from the Tsawout reserve. The First Nation alleges James Island was part of the 1852 treaty with then-Governor James Douglas with the Saanich Tribe, guaranteeing their village sites would be protected from settlers.

In a media release, the Tsawout and its legal counsel, John Gailus, state rather than setting aside the island as reserve land, the government subdivided it and sold it. It would become a private hunting reserve “for British Columbia’s elite” and then an explosives manufacturing facility for CIL in 1913. The island is currently owned by J.I. Properties Inc, a company owned by Craig McCaw.

In this year’s B.C. property assessments, James Island is valued at more than $54 million.

It was listed in 2014 for sale at $75 million. Legal counsel for the Tsawout, John Gailus, says he’s not aware of the island being currently for sale.

“We have been asking the Crown to return James Island to us for decades and they have refused to take any steps to return it to us,” stated Tsawout Chief Harvey Underwood in a media release. “We call the island LEL’TOS and it is home to a large village, burial grounds as well as a number of sites where we fished, hunted and gathered food and medicinal plants. It was also an important defensive position for our ancestors who fought off raiders from the North.

“LEL’TOS is a stone’s throw away from our main village and has never been ceded or surrendered by us.”

Gailus said the 1852 Douglas Treaties, which included the Tsawout, stated that village sites and “enclosed lands” would be set aside, along with hunting and fishing rights.

“James Island was one of those village sites,” he explained, “and it was (taken) for agricultural use and CIL came to occupy it for years. There was even a town there.”

The Tsawout are arguing, Gailus continued, that James Island was one of those village sites named in the treaty. He added the First Nation had made this argument to the province and Ottawa in the past, but this is the first time they’ve gone to court to get it back.

Gailus said there could be precedent for the island’s return to the First Nation. He said the Conservative government established the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, which has seen a variety of decisions favour the country’s First Nations. Cases such as the Esquimalt and Songees nations being compensated for the B.C. Legislature grounds and the 2014 Tsilhquot’in decision, that upheld aboriginal title to 1,700 square kilometers of land west of Williams Lake.

Gailus said they’ve given notice to the province and federal government of the civil suit today (Jan. 25).



editor@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Speed skating a family affair for View Royal twins

Kieran and Kyle Brown set to compete in B.C. Winter Games

Belmont Student Voices: Influential teachers, good or bad, play a crucial role

Chances are you’ve had an influential teacher at some point in your… Continue reading

Hatley Castle 8K takes place this Sunday

Royal Roads race is the fourth in the Vancouver Island Race Series

Grade 11 student gains leadership experience in 4-H club raising goats

Mira Finkelstein enjoys spending time mentoring younger members of the club.

Watch for high winds today and tomorrow

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria. According to Environment… Continue reading

WATCH: Vancouver Island man catches dashcam video of near head-on crash

Video shows oncoming van cross over centre line

B.C. man brings dog to court as ‘best witness’

Man is defending himself on charges of uttering threats, possessing weapon for dangerous purposes

Vancouver artist’s cartoon of Florida school shooting resonates

Cartoon shows football coach, one of the victims, meeting others killed in school shootings

Trudeau family arrives in India for state visit

Seven-day visit includes meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Military seeks DNA experts to help ID missing war dead

Federal program recovers, identifies and arranges burials for Canada’s nearly 28,000 missing war dead

B.C. files new legal action against TransMountain pipeline

Province tries to uphold City of Burnaby bylaws, provoking Alberta

BCHL Today: Powell River stuns Vernon and BCHL grads lead Team Canada

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Reports of money laundering in B.C. real estate ‘troubling’: attorney general

News report alleges people connected to fentanyl trade are using B.C. real estate to launder money

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Two more medals for Canada, and men’s hockey loss

Team Canada shines on the speed skating track, but fall short against the Czechs in hockey

Most Read