Land Disputes Continue Despite Olympics: Okanagan Indigenous Community Blocks Access to Logging Company

By Andrew Crosby writing for the Vancouver Media Co-Op

Land disputes between indigenous communities, resource-based companies, and the Canadian state are numerous and on-going. There is no Olympic time-out in this historical struggle.

On Saturday, February 20, the Okanagan Indian Band held an emergency meeting and passed a motion to establish checkpoints throughout the community as a reaction to the Tolko Industries logging company’s plans to cut trees in the Browns Creek Watershed, near Vernon.

While a B.C. court ruled that Tolko could begin logging in the area, the Band insists that the company lacks jurisdiction to harvest trees where land claims remain unresolved.

The court ruling was contingent on an archaeological consultation, one that Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Chief Fabian Alexis contend was less than genuine and ultimately flawed.

“Title to the area is a matter that is presently before the courts and that the Crown has been unable to produce any documentation showing acquisition of title from the Okanagan Nation,” said Alexis.

Most of present-day British Columbia has never been formally ceded by indigenous communities and remains as a major issue of contention and potential conflict.

“No Olympics on Stolen Native Land” has been the slogan that local communities have rallied around in their opposition to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. With thousands of journalists in B.C. for the Olympics, an episode like this, which may not traditionally garner much media attention, could potentially reach an international audience. A German film crew has already been on the scene.

The Okanagan Band argues that logging in the watershed will affect both native and non-native communities alike, and other residents of the area are showing their support in the decision to block Tolko’s access to the land.

“The provincial government has made it clear that the financial interests of Tolko are of greater concern to them than the health and safety of the people who derive their drinking and irrigation water from the Browns Creek Watershed,” stated Chief Alexis in a press release.

Tolko and government officials have not yet publicly commented.

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Posted on February 24, 2010, in Ecological Struggles, Indigenous Struggles and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Land Disputes Continue Despite Olympics: Okanagan Indigenous Community Blocks Access to Logging Company.

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