Feds disagree with OKIB legal stance on CN corridor

With BC Supreme Court injunction hearing May 25, government officials not saying much

The fate of a proposed recreational trail will go before a judge later this month.

The Okanagan Indian Band’s attempt to stop Canadian National’s sale of the rail corridor along Kalamalka Lake to local communities will be before Vancouver’s B.C. Supreme Court May 25 to 27.

“The OKIB never legally surrendered the lands in question,” said Chief Byron Louis.

The Commonage Indian reserve, which includes 22 kilometres of the rail corridor, was created in 1877, but the band says federal and provincial officials eliminated the reserve a decade later.

The band insists that when a portion of the corridor ceased to be used for railway purposes, it should have reverted to band control instead of CN selling the property to the Regional District of North Okanagan, Lake Country and Kelowna.

“We have received the municipalities’ and CN Rail’s response and are waiting to receive the responses of Canada and B.C. to our statement of claim filed in March,” said Louis.

Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP, says there’s a reason why the federal government hasn’t declared its intentions yet about the case.

“It’s going to court and we disagree with the position of the First Nations band,” he said.

“There isn’t necessarily a claim, that is our position.”

However, Mayes says the federal government will abide by any court ruling.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, was reluctant to discuss the matter as he is not sure of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs’ stance.

“They (band) have initiated court action which is their right to do,” he said.

RDNO is co-operating with Kelowna and Lake Country on the court case.

“We are collectively being represented by a lawyer on this,” said David Sewell, RDNO chief administrative officer.

“We feel that the concerns raised by the OKIB deal with the federal government and CN’s actions or lack of actions. As local governments, we are trying to buy something that has free and clear title.”