Gitanyow Chiefs React To BC Supreme Court Decision In Gitxaała Mineral Tenure Case.
The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs are pleased with the outcome of the Gitxaała Mineral Tenure Act challenge. Justice Ross’ ruling yesterday declared that British Columbia’s current online system for automatic registration of mineral claims, without a system for consultation, violates the principle of free, prior and informed consent.
Gitxaała Nation was seeking to overturn multiple mineral claims granted by BC without consent, consultation or notification. After several weeks in court during April – May 2023, Gitxaała proved that the duty to consult is triggered before a mineral claim is staked and the province now has 18 months to design a new, constitutionally valid regime.
“Gitxaala has won an important victory for every Nation across BC,” said Simogyet (Hereditary Chief) Malii. “The gold rush is over, industry and government must align with the new era of sustainable mining that respects Indigenous rights to consent.”
The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs joined the Gitxaala Nation as intervenors to challenge the province’s outdated “free-entry” mining laws designed to encourage mineral exploration. The chiefs shared their views in court after multiple mineral claims were made on their lax’yip (territory) in the Meziadin watershed, and White and Kinskuch Rivers.
“After decades of failing to prioritize mineral tenure reform, we were forced to the courts in support of Gitxaała,” said Naxginkw, Tara Marsden, Wilp Sustainability Director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs. “The duty to consult is long overdue and should not have taken so much time and resources, but the tide is finally turning, it’s our right to decide how our lands are used.”
It’s important to note the immense volume of evidence presented and that not all relief was granted to the parties involved. While some may seek additional declarations or appeal the decision, the shift towards upholding Indigenous rights and the duty to consult must continue in the same trajectory.
The Simigigyet’m Gitanyow (Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs) are an innovative, traditional Indigenous government mandated to protect Gitanyow Nation’s lands, resources, and laws. The Gitanyow have never ceded or surrendered title to their lands, rights to their resources, or the power to make decisions within their Lax’yip (Territory). The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs’ goal is to establish government-to-government agreements that form the foundation of a modern-day treaty through an incremental treaty approach. In 2012, the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs and the province of British Columbia signed the Gitanyow Lax’Yip Land Use Plan to guide all industrial activity. Gitanyow Nation is part of the larger Gitksan Nation, encompassing 6,200 square kilometres in the Nass and Skeena Watersheds (Kitwanga and Kispiox Rivers).