MOBERLY, B.C. – The western boundary of Treaty 8 is officially defined after a Supreme Court of Canada Ruling.
The boundary is officially along the Arctic-Pacific divide, which West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson says should have always been the case.
“Canada and the First Nations, which are inherently Treaty, understood clearly where that boundary was,” said Willson. “B.C got it in their head that they wanted to change that boundary.”
B.C implemented what they perceived as its authority over the land, according to Willson, which he said put the Treaty Rights of members in that area into question.
“If I went and shot a moose in that area of conflict would I get charged for the violation where I was thinking that I was practising my treaty right?”
Treaty No.8 First Nations have defined rights and privileges within the territory border, such as hunting and fishing.
The government must consult with the First Nations if they were to begin development in the territory or if a development infringes on the land.
The Treaty was first signed in 1899 that involved a defined map (above) which includes coverage in northeast B.C, northern Alberta, northwestern Saskatchewan and the North West Territories.
“Finally, after 120+ years(!), a Treaty 8 First Nation member can step outside their front door and know exactly where they may exercise their Treaty rights,” stated DGW Law Corporation in a Facebook post on Thursday.
“Congratulations to those Treaty 8 First Nations who have been fighting for so long, to the Elders who shared their histories, and to the numerous legal counsel, experts, law students, legal assistants, and consultants who had a hand in today’s victory. Today is a day to celebrate!”
There has been a long-standing dispute about the western boundary, around 48,000 square miles, since 1909.
This is due to the discrepancy between the map presented (above) and the wording of the Treaty, saying the territory ends at the ‘central range of the Rocky Mountains’.
The issue was brought up again in 2005 with Treaty 8 First Nations claiming that the boundary was along the Arctic-Pacific.
In a legal briefing from Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, the province and three non-Treaty 8 First Nations argued that the “central range of the Rocky Mountains” refers to the height of the Rocky Mountains. Canada and the Treaty 8 First Nations claimed the boundary is the more westerly Arctic-Pacific Divide.
Willson says the dispute was reignited for many reasons including West Moberly selecting land near Summit Lake, which is on the edge of the continental divide, as part of the Treaty Land Entitlement Process with the provincial and federal governments.
“B.C said, ‘no, that’s outside of our definition of what Treaty 8 is’. That [what sparked] this whole court challenge, and then all the nations that are long along the treaty boundary like West Moberly, Saulteau, Halfway River, Fort Nelson, all had interests on that side.”
The B.C Supreme Court ruled that the western boundary was located on the Arctic-Pacific Divide in 2017, which was affirmed by the BC court of appeal last year, dubbed “West Moberly v. British Columbia”.