Aboriginal law expert warns of private property risks over B.C.-Haida land agreement

Contrary to Premier David Eby's assurances to non-Indigenous property owners in Haida Gwaii, Timothy Thielman, a lawyer who has practiced Aboriginal law for 15 years, says the Haida Title Act could put private property rights at risk.

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On April 14, British Columbia’s socialist New Democrat government and the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) signed the "Rising Tide" Haida Title Lands Agreement. The negotiated union transfers ownership and jurisdiction of Crown land in Haida Gwaii to the Haida Nation and will lead to the Aboriginal title being recognized throughout the approximately 10,000 square kilometres of the northern island region of B.C.

The agreement, which Premier David Eby calls the “honour of his career,” is a further step toward B.C.’s commitment to the global United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) version of reconciliation, which the province adopted legislation for in 2019 through the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

According to the NDP government, private property rights will be explicitly protected and “existing government services and infrastructure” in the region will be maintained. In contrast, opposition party leaders from both the Conservative Party of B.C. and B.C. United have criticized the NDP’s narrative regarding the act.

“There’s no question in my mind that a negotiated agreement for title for Haida Gwaii was the right thing to do. Where I have a problem is recognizing title over top of private land,” John Rustad, the B.C. Conservative leader and former Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation told Rebel News.

According to Rustad, over time, such a provision will lead to title law creating uncertainty for what citizens can and can’t do with their private property and “there will now be alienation of that title in terms of Indigenous rights to be able to benefit from the land,” which could lead to a need for compensation.

Timothy Thielman, a blind B.C. Conservative candidate for Victoria-Beacon Hill, and a lawyer who has practiced Aboriginal law for 15 years, is also raising concerns about the agreement.

In today’s report, I sit down to interview Thielman as he discusses such concerns, including the potential impact the government agreeing to aboriginal law replacing British Columbia’s could have on the region’s non-First Nations citizens who will soon be governed by a Haida Council they did not elect.

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