The Okanagan Indian Band injunction claim on the sale and purchase agreement of the Okanagan Rail Corridor was dismissed Monday, making room for the sale to go through.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Meyers ruled that the Okanagan Indian Band claim does not meet the three-part test that merits an injunction, rejecting it on the grounds that there would be no “irreparable harm” if the injunction were not granted and that the “balance of convenience” does not weigh in favour of an injunction.
Local governments will proceed on closing the sale and purchase agreement with CN by the end of Monday on the understanding that CN has the legal right to sell the land.
“With no injunction in place CN is within its right to sell the corridor lands,” said Doug Gilchrist, Divisional Director Community Planning & Real Estate for the City of Kelowna on behalf of the regional partners.
Local governments respect and support the Okanagan Indian Band in its claim of reversionary rights on land that falls within IR No. 7 and, as such, those parcels have been excluded from the pending agreement with CN.
“Our understanding is that the specific claim over the Commonage reserve was concluded however land claims are ongoing across Canada and the City will respect any final decisions by Canada or the courts,” said Gilchrist. “We hope to continue to work with Okanagan Indian Band for the mutual benefit of all our citizens.”
Being heard is something that the Okanagan Indian Band is stressing as the process moves forward and continues to be litigated.
The OKIB claims that 22 kilometres of the rail line that runs through the Commonage should have reverted to reserve when it ceased to be used for railway purposes and cannot be lawfully sold.
The Commonage Indian reserve was created in 1877 by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission, but the band says federal and provincial officials eliminated the reserve a decade later.
OKIB Chief Byron Louis won’t say what actions the band may take to further its argument, but has noted they will continue to assert title and rights to all of their perceived territory.
In 1910 the Chiefs of the Okanagan, Shuswap and Thompson joined together and presented a letter to Sir Wilfred Laurier demanding the settlement of the land question, he said. In July of this year the Chiefs of the Interior Alliance are meeting again to discuss matters of mutual importance and reconciliation will be high on our agenda.
“We’re hoping that our neighbours in the Okanagan can take a page from our friends in Vancouver. Seeking reconciliation with First Nations people is the only way forward without having past injustices continuing to resurface,” Louis said. “Reconciliation means taking the time to listen, hear, acknowledge that you understand what has been told to you and be willing to do more about it than say ‘it happened a long time ago.’ Historical wrongs and historically long held beliefs about First Nations people need to be corrected.”
The municipalities of Kelowna, Lake Country, Coldstream and Vernon, as well as the regional districts of Central Okanagan and North Okanagan, have jointly identified the value the rail line could have as a continuous multi-modal transportation corridor connecting all the communities.
“Once the sale is finalized, we look forward to engaging communities about their vision for the corridor,” said Gilchrist. “We remind residents that while the corridor will be acquired as municipal-owned land it is currently not open for public use.”
Designs, public consultation and operating models will be evaluated for developing the corridor but it may be some time before the route is sufficiently developed and the corridor is open to the public.
Refer to kelowna.ca/OKRailCorridor for the most up-to-date information.