A GROUP of Nisga’a opposed to the Nisga’a treaty saying it was unconstitutional because it created a third order of government and denied them rights of representation have lost their case before the BC Court of Appeal.
The appeal court, in a Feb. 5, 2013 decision, instead found that the treaty, which came into force in 2000, falls within the Canadian constitution as “an honourable attempt to resolve important but disputed claims, to achieve reconciliation, and to lay the foundation for a productive and harmonious future relationship between the Nisga’a Nation and the non-aboriginal population of Canada.”
The opposition group was lead by James Robinson, also known as Chief Mountain, who once lived in Kincolith.
Robinson and others had also argued that significant Kincolith lands were not included in the territory that now form the core treaty land base.
Nisga’a Lisims Government president Mitchell Stevens welcomed the appeal court decision, saying it reinforced the Lisims government’s position on the treaty.
“Our elders have always said that not only must our ownership of Nisga’a Lands be recognized, but we must also have the right to make decisions for ourselves about our lands and our people. This is the meaning of Nisga’a government – having the right to determine our path towards a better quality of life within Canada,” he said.
The Robinson faction first filed its court challenge in 2000, the year the treaty came into effect.
The case wound its way through to the appeals court after Robinson was successful in a lower court ruling that it could mount a challenge.
In a 2002 statement, Robinson outlined the historical roots of what he said was a dispute between Kincolith, which is at the mouth of the Nass River and people who lived further inland.
“I have rights as a Canadian and a Nisga’a which are best protected under the Canadian constitution, not a constitution passed by a government controlled by family cliques, centered in [the Lisims capital of] New Aiyansh,” said Robinson at the time.
“We have no interest in being subjected to the unlawful discrimination of those who have been prejudiced against Kincolith since Kincolith was founded by Christians fleeing persecution by non-Christians up the Nass Valley, where New Aiyansh is located,” he said.