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

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

B.C. First Nation sues for the return of $54 million private island

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

A multi-million dollar private Island near Sidney on Vancouver Island 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

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

Just Posted

df
Missionites protest logging of old-growth forests outside MLA Pam Alexis’ office

Protests in solidarity with logging blockaders on Vancouver Island; injunction heard in court today

Alan Pryor in 2015, during the Agassiz Fire Department’s 70th year. (Greg Laychak/The Observer)
Agassiz fireman celebrates 51 years at the hall

Al Pryor has been a key member in the Agassiz Fire Department since he was 16

Mike Bismeyer of Abbotsford is the recipient of the national Savita Shah Award for his work promoting kindness and anti-bullying initiatives.
Abbotsford man who was bullied as a teen receives national kindness award

Mike Bismeyer is one of two Canadians to earn Savita Shah Award

RCMP were on scene under the Menzies Street bridge in Chilliwack on Thursday, March 4, 2021 where a body was found. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE: Body found under Menzies bridge in Chilliwack that of man in 20s

Death not considered suspicious, said Chilliwack RCMP

The public survey of the 76-acre area Parr Neighbourhood will help municipal staff make policy decisions on future development. District of Mission image.
The public survey of the 76-acre area Parr Neighbourhood will help municipal staff make policy decisions on future development. District of Mission image.
Parr locals want to keep neighbourhood green, avoid densification, survey says

Mission council presented with results of a public survey on future development of 76-acre area

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

RCMP members responded to calls of a man-down at Landsdowne mall in Richmond Wednesday afternoon. The 40-year-old was suffering from stab wounds. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man in critical condition following afternoon attack outside Richmond mall: RCMP

The Vancouver resident was found lying injured outside Richmond’s Lansdowne Centre

Most Read