FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The only indigenous Nation with an unresolved land claim within the Peace Region, the Kelly Lake Cree Nation, is celebrating a recent landmark Supreme Court decision.
The Government of Canada has consistently refused to recognize members of the KLCN as ‘Indians’ under the Indian Act of 1876 because it was not included in the treaty process.
Last week, the court agreed with the argument that Metis and non-status Indians are ‘Indians’ as the term is used in the Constitution Act of 1867. It was presented by a group plaintiffs, including Harry Daniels, a Metis activist who died before the case was heard.
Chief Cliff Calliou notes the court decision affirmed what his nation has been arguing for more than two decades, that ‘we are an indigenous people with a traditional inherent government, regardless of what the government-imposed Indian Act process says we should be.’
He adds the ruling strengthens the KLCN will to resolve its land grievance, and it will continue to defend and uphold the inherent indigenous rights and title to its territory.
To that end the Chief told us the KLCN is prepared to pursue an agreement in talks with the Trudeau government.
The KLCN also believes the government’s refusal to recognize its inherent indigenous rights has allowed mass exploitation of resources throughout its traditional territory.
Not only does the ruling affirm the KLCN indigenous status, it also recognizes and enforces the government’s duty to consult with KLCN peoples and they now contend the government has an obligation to resolve their land grievance.
The territory in question straddles the Alberta-B.C. border, bounded on the north by the Peace River, on the west by the Rocky Mountains in B.C., on the east by the sixth meridian in Alberta, and on the south by the boundaries of Treaty 6 and Treaty 8.
The KLCN also contends, the ruling has resource development implications.
The Chief says while the KLCN welcomes economic opportunity and development in its territory, it wants a voice in the approval process of those projects, and it argues that over the past 30 years. The government has refused to recognize KLCN inherent indigenous rights, allowing mass exploitation of resources through the traditional territory, often without KLCN consent.
Thus, since that territory in question is bound on the north by the Peace River, it led us to a question about possible KLCN concerns regarding the Site C dam project.