Reaction: Communities say they believe CN has right to sell corridor land

With Okanagan Indian Band saying it is heading to BC Supreme Court, Kelowna says plans to purchase CN corridor moving ahead

The Okanagan Indian Band insists it’s not ordering communities to abandon buying a rail corridor.

The band will file documents in B.C. Supreme Court over its long-standing claim to the Commonage lands, which includes the Canadian National line along Kalamalka Lake.

“It’s unfortunate it’s come to this but we make no apologies when it comes to protecting the legal interests of our membership,” said Chief Byron Louis.

However, Louis says the band’s actions should not be interpreted as placing demands on the Regional District of North Okanagan, Lake Country and Kelowna which are trying to buy the corridor.

“Their decisions are their decisions just like they are for us. If they believe what they are doing is right, that is their decision,” he said.

“We have never said we are opposed to any activity there but we are opposed to the sale of the rail corridor. We have not wavered since 1888.”

A Commonage reserve was formed in 1877 but a decade later, the reserve was scrapped by government officials without the involvement of the band.

Louis says that if the corridor is not being used for rail transport, it should revert to reserve.

“Put simply, CN cannot sell what they do not own, and the municipalities cannot purchase lands that are not CN’s to sell.”

However, the communities say they are committed to purchasing the corridor.

“We are proceeding on what has always been our understanding, that CN owns the land outright and therefore has the legal right to sell the land,” said Doug Gilchrist, Kelowna’s divisional director of community planning and real estate.

“We are proceeding on the understanding that the Commonage claim is a matter between the federal government and First Nations and it should have no bearing on the acquisition of land between a private company and a local government.”

Gilchrist added that if the corridor is acquired, the regional partners will abide by any interim or final legal decisions issued by the court.

The band’s court action could impact the April 25 referendum in Lake Country to borrow $2.6 million to purchase the corridor.

“There’s some uncertainty that we can actually purchase the land,” said Mayor James Baker, who is still urging residents to support borrowing funds.

“What we’re asking for is the opportunity to borrow $2.6 million and if there’s a yes vote, we then have the ability to borrow. If it (band) goes before the courts, it could be a long time before we get to exercise voter assent. A yes vote give us the opportunity to participate in acquisition with the other partners.”

Greater Vernon officials are reluctant to comment on the Okanagan Indian Band’s legal actions or the potential consequences for the land deal.

“We are allowing the process to go ahead,” said Juliette Cunningham, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chairperson.

Louis insists the federal government hasn’t been responsible over land claims and it’s creating a rift between First Nations and local jurisdictions.

“They like to leave it up to the courts to resolve because they lack the political will to move ahead,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central Okanagan school buses to remain parked through the summer

The board of education made the decision to nix bus services on Wednesday

Motor trike crashes into hole in Ellison area

A man was taken to hospital after crashing his trike on Anderson Road

Playgrounds to reopen across the Okanagan on June 1

After nearly two months closure, playgrounds are set to reopen

Kelowna’s Rock the Lake officially postponed until 2021

The new dates have been scheduled for August 6-8, 2021

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Flood watch for Salmon River upgraded as high temperatures, rain forecast

Shuswap Emergency Program warns residents to prepare now for possible extreme flooding

Partial return to class for Central Okanagan students: COVID-19

School District 23 and the Board of Education have released a letter regarding returning to class

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

RCMP request public’s help in locating missing Salmon Arm man

Ken Derkach is a familiar face to many, one of the city’s residents who is without a home

Booze on Kelowna beaches? Mayor says ‘not at the moment’

Mayor Colin Basran says alcohol in public spaces is not on council’s radar right now — but that could change

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

VIDEO: Police look for suspect seen tripping elderly woman in Burnaby

The elderly woman was walking near the SkyTrain station when she was randomly tripped

Most Read