Reaction: Communities say they believe CN has right to sell corridor land

With Okanagan Indian Band saying they are heading to the courts, Kelowna says they are proceeding with attempt to purchase CN corridor

The Okanagan Indian Band insists it’s not ordering communities to abandon buying a rail corridor.

The band will file documents in B.C. Supreme Court over its long-standing claim to the Commonage lands, which includes the Canadian National line along Kalamalka Lake.

“It’s unfortunate it’s come to this but we make no apologies when it comes to protecting the legal interests of our membership,” said Chief Byron Louis.

However, Louis says the band’s actions should not be interpreted as placing demands on the Regional District of North Okanagan, Lake Country and Kelowna which are trying to buy the corridor.

“Their decisions are their decisions just like they are for us. If they believe what they are doing is right, that is their decision,” he said.

“We have never said we are opposed to any activity there but we are opposed to the sale of the rail corridor. We have not wavered since 1888.”

A Commonage reserve was formed in 1877 but a decade later, the reserve was scrapped by government officials without the involvement of the band.

Louis says that if the corridor is not being used for rail transport, it should revert to reserve.

“Put simply, CN cannot sell what they do not own, and the municipalities cannot purchase lands that are not CN’s to sell.”

However, the communities say they are committed to purchasing the corridor.

“We are proceeding on what has always been our understanding, that CN owns the land outright and therefore has the legal right to sell the land,” said Doug Gilchrist, Kelowna’s divisional director of community planning and real estate.

“We are proceeding on the understanding that the Commonage claim is a matter between the federal government and First Nations and it should have no bearing on the acquisition of land between a private company and a local government.”

Gilchrist added that if the corridor is acquired, the regional partners will abide by any interim or final legal decisions issued by the court.

The band’s court action could impact the April 25 referendum in Lake Country to borrow $2.6 million to purchase the corridor.

“There’s some uncertainty that we can actually purchase the land,” said Mayor James Baker, who is still urging residents to support borrowing funds.

“What we’re asking for is the opportunity to borrow $2.6 million and if there’s a yes vote, we then have the ability to borrow. If it (band) goes before the courts, it could be a long time before we get to exercise voter assent. A yes vote give us the opportunity to participate in acquisition with the other partners.”

Greater Vernon officials are reluctant to comment on the Okanagan Indian Band’s legal actions or the potential consequences for the land deal.

“We are allowing the process to go ahead,” said Juliette Cunningham, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chairperson.

Louis insists the federal government hasn’t been  responsible over land claims and it’s creating a rift between First Nations and local jurisdictions.

“They like to leave it up to the courts to resolve because they lack the political will to move ahead,” he said.

Just Posted

Outbreak at Okanagan hospital

Gastrointestinal illness reported at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Kelowna public menorah lit tonight to celebrate Hanukkah

The menorah will be lit tonight after celebrations at 5 p.m. in Stuart Park

Big Band supports children with disabilities in Lake Country

Proceeds from the Okanagan Big Band performance in Vernon supports local kids

Were your hockey cards stolen?

The Kelowna RCMP are looking to reunite a hockey fan with their cards

RCMP look to reunite owner with stolen tools

Kelowna police seek to identify the owner of tablet and tools seized by RCMP

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Warriors ground Rockets in Moose Jaw

Moose Jaw scores five in the third period to down Kelowna in Rockets’ third game of prairie road trip

Horgan says pot smokers may face same outdoor rules as cigarette smokers

B.C. is developing its rules on recreational marijuana

Dedicated volunteers look for clues

Police appreciate work of those who provide extra eyes for missing women investigations.

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

B.C. teacher suspended after explicit images projected to class

Jeffrey Rohin Muthanna had been viewing porn on a school laptop for two years

Man who pledged to give B.C. hockey team millions charged with fraud

Mike Gould has since repaid $8,000 he allegedly owed Cranbrook restaurant, owner says

Horgan on Site C: ‘dammed’ if did, ‘dammed’ if he didn’t

B.C. premier didn’t like keeping massive hydro damn project going, but felt he had to

Strong economy fuels housing sales in B.C.: report

Economist says demand for houses is being supported by a large number of millennials entering the market

Most Read