Decision to hear Williams Lake Indian Band claims case hailed

Williams Lake Indian BandOTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said last Thursday’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the Williams Lake Indian Band appeal is an important step in the struggle for justice on land rights and rights recognition for all First Nations.

The Williams Lake Indian Band is appealing a decision by the Federal Court of Appeal that overturned a decision of the Specific Claims Tribunal acknowledging the wrongful dispossession of the Band’s village lands prior to Confederation.

“The Williams Lake Indian Band has our full support as we look toward a Supreme Court of Canada decision that will uphold First Nations’ rights and the Specific Claims Tribunal’s legitimacy,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “This is essential to upholding justice and inherent rights for the Williams Lake Indian Band and all First Nations seeking justice before the Tribunal.” The National Chief noted that a negative ruling would undermine the ongoing work of reconciliation.

The Williams Lake Indian Band filed a specific claim against the Crown with the Specific Claims Tribunal in 2011, under the federal Specific Claims Tribunal Act. In 2014, the Tribunal ruled in a final and binding decision that the Williams Lake Indian Band had established a valid claim against the Crown. In response, the Crown sought a judicial review of this case, and on February 29, 2016, the Federal Court of Appeal took an extraordinary step by dismissing the Tribunal’s ruling and substituting its own while rejecting the longstanding claim made by the Williams Lake Indian Band.

A link to the Williams Lake Case Summary can be found at: http://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/sum-som-eng.aspx?cas=36983

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates. – CNW

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