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End in sight to Tolko, Okanagan Indian band dispute

Monday, March 15th, 2010 | 11:35 am

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Tolko and the Okanagan Indian Band seem to have found a common path on which to tread, and it could lead them to resolve the issues at Browns Creek.

In a Friday appearance before BC Supreme Court Madam Justice Brown,  legal representatives of the Okanagan Indian Band /Okanagan Nation and Tolko agreed that an opportunity exists for the two parties to come to a resolution outside of court within the next few weeks.

To that end, the Okanagan Indian Band has withdrawn its request for the court to set aside Tolko’s enforcement order.

“Further, at Tolko’s request, Justice Brown set an April 9 deadline, for the band to request clarity of or challenge the archaeological work completed so far,” said Murray Wilson,  Woodlands Manager for Okanagan Forestry.

“The court previously approved Tolko’s Archaeological plan which addresses both harvesting on a snow pack and harvesting without one.  The window for harvesting on the snow pack is now gone.  So we will be completing the next stage of the archaeological plan for harvesting snow free.”

This was an important concession for Tolko to make as they had been asking how can you map out historic trails and other artifacts when everything is covered in three to six feet of snow,  said Okanagan Band Chief Fabian Alexis, who attended the court hearing.

“Now there is an opportunity for a proper archeological survey to be done without the intimidation and ‘rush job’ nature of the previous one,” he said.

“Justice Brown has ordered that Tolko and OKIB/ Okanagan Nation appear back before her on April 9, for a full day hearing on the archaeology. So we have a few weeks to see what other progress all involved parties can make in the interim.”

Louise Mandell of the law firm Mandell Pinder and Associates, which represents the Okanagan Nation, was also pleased by today’s court session.

“With respect to the order regarding our injunction application, we asked Madam Justice Brown to clarify that the decision she made on Nov. 1  was about eight cutblocks only, and that she had not given Tolko a green light to go ahead and log a further 350,000 cu meters of wood in the Watersheds, where Tolko has permits from the province.  Justice Brown confirmed that she had made no such decision,” noted Mandell.

“Judge Brown confirmed that the Okanagan can come back to Court with respect to any logging plans Tolko comes forward with in the future.”

Chief Alexis added that it seemed to clear that to see resolution of this dispute outside of court we need to have the involvement of both the Government of Canada and the Province of BC.

“A lawyer representing the Province of BC was also present in the gallery so clearly we have the Province’s attention, now we need their active participation in reaching a solution that adequately compensates Tolko while ensuring a solution which respects our aboriginal title, and laws in the watersheds, for the protection of the water we require for drinking water and irrigation on our reserve,” said Chief Alexis.

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