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Letters to the editor for the week of July 3rd

I'm going to ignore last weeks "The Way I See It" column (Question June 24) and focus on something with greater ramifications for Whistler, the Sea to Sky, and all of B.C: the Tsilhqot'in decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

I'm going to ignore last weeks "The Way I See It" column (Question June 24) and focus on something with greater ramifications for Whistler, the Sea to Sky, and all of B.C: the Tsilhqot'in decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

As a result of the unanimous decision of the Court, the Tsilhqot'in First Nation is now recognized in Canadian law as owning 170,000 hectares of its traditional territory. By comparison, Garibaldi Provincial Park is about 194,000 hectares.

The decision sets out the rules of the game for proving title, and the way governments must relate to First Nations before and after title is proven.

Gaining a declaration of title will not be as difficult as previously thought. Title will be recognized over larger areas than governments have been willing to admit. And, once title is proven, First Nations will be able to do almost anything they choose with their lands. This decision strengthens the legal, political and economic position of First Nations immensely.  

I'm very proud of this decision and I think it's a wonderfully Canadian outcome. It ties 40 years of aboriginal law together in a succinct, straightforward, and logical manner. It respects our constitution. It reconciles our past by attempting to create a just society for all Canadians. It weaves together aboriginal and non-aboriginal worldviews in a modern and balanced way.

Recognizing in Canadian law that First Nations own the land that they have lived on for thousands of years is right.

I wish I could say that this case will lead to an immediate normalization in aboriginal and non-aboriginal relations, however, as history has shown, the decision in the short term will create new conflicts.

For every question that was answered by the court there are ten more that rise to the fore. As a result of the significance of this decision, we are in for a bumpy decade as First Nations and governments come to terms with the implications of the case.

Furthermore, resolving land ownership in itself doesn't empower modern, stable, and competent First Nation governments. In addition to who owns the land we also need to resolve questions around jurisdiction, financial transfers, elimination of the Indian Act, and the integration of planning and decision-making across boundaries (think salmon management).  

We've moved forward with this recent decision by the Supreme Court and now we need to break through. As citizens we need to encourage our political leaders (both aboriginal and non-aboriginal) to get back to treaty making with a renewed vigor.

It's a great challenge and a great opportunity to reshape our country for the better. This is a unique moment in time. We can take the lead of the Supreme Court and negotiate First Nations into the fabric of our society or we can spend more lifetimes in conflict and in court.

I hope political leaders of all stripes seize the opportunity to do the former.

Sheldon Tetreault


The June 26 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Tsilhqot'in case has caused a tectonic shift in the legal landscape in B.C, and in other parts of Canada where aboriginal title still exists.

This is an important decision for Whistler and for other communities where access to Crown lands is an important aspect of their economic development planning. It is, as Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould put it, a "game-changer."

The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the continuing existence of Aboriginal title in a 1,750-square-kilometre portion of Tsilhqot'in traditional territory. The Court did not "grant" aboriginal title — they affirmed it.

This means that the Tsilqhot'in have the exclusive right to occupy and use these lands, and the right to benefit from all of the resources on those lands to the exclusion of others. These lands are not (and never were) "Crown lands" that could be regulated and divided up as though they were public lands. Given that aboriginal title is protected by the Canadian constitution, governments cannot deal with, or interfere with, the Tsilqhot'in First Nation's use of the lands and resources without their consent: i.e. — the province will no longer be able to issue permits to third parties for land use or resource exploitation on those lands.

Provincial regulations would apply to these lands and resources only if they are the type that apply throughout the province and do not impair Tsilhqot'in rights or interests.

The Court referred to general regulation for the health of the forests as an example of the type of regulation that would apply, because they would be of mutual benefit to the Tsilhqot'in people and the rest of British Columbia. Provincial regulations that purport to authorize the granting of Tsilqhot'in resource rights to third parties are in breach of constitutionally protected aboriginal rights and will not apply. If third parties want to exploit Tsilqhot'in resources, they will need Tsilhqot'in consent. Third parties should anticipate that this will require compensation, as well as compliance with conditions imposed by the First Nation to protect its interests.

The Court acknowledged that the provincial government could regulate against the will of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, but they may only do so if it is in the public interest and that public interest outweighs the constitutionally protected rights of the Tsilhqot'in people.

This would be something that would be used in extraordinary circumstances, and does not make aboriginal title lands more vulnerable than private property held in fee simple (private property held by non-aboriginal owners is subject to the provincial Expropriation Act).

The First Nation may use its lands and resources for any purpose for the benefit of their people; however, it — and federal and provincial governments — are bound by a duty to successive generations of Tsilhqot'in people.

Aboriginal title includes all of the benefits of privately held land that is owned collectively, with the additional feature that it is constitutionally protected. This means that the power of federal and provincial governments to interfere is constrained, to ensure that the Crown deals fairly and honourably with the current generation of Tsilhqot'in people and does not undermine the interests of future generations.

As the owners of the lands and resources, the Tsilhqot'in people are free to use, develop, and profit from these lands. They also have the right to manage these lands, and to require compliance with their management regime.

Aboriginal title lands are not Indian reserves, as that term is defined in the Indian Act, so the Indian Act will not apply unless the federal government amends that Act to do so. They do fall within the meaning of Lands Reserved for the Indians in ss. 91(24) of the Constitution Act 1867, and so fall within federal jurisdiction. Only provincial laws that are designed to apply generally to everyone would apply to aboriginal title lands, and only if they do not impair the First Nation's rights or benefits.

Since the Calder decision in 1973, successive Supreme Court of Canada decisions have demonstrated that the governments' perspectives on aboriginal title have been too narrow and too limited. While this decision may assist in achieving negotiated settlements more quickly, it is also likely to increase the cost of those settlements because the ambiguity about the nature and content of aboriginal title has been resolved in favour of First Nations. Governments can no longer benefit from the ambiguity discount.

This decision does not speak to the right of First Nations to compensation for past breaches of their aboriginal title, but we should not be surprised if such claims come forward now.

Let us hope that our federal and provincial governments quickly muster the wherewithal to conclude treaty negotiations while there is still something left to negotiate.

The cost of failure keeps going up, and no one wins.

Millie Nickason BA, LLB, MPA

PhD student, Faculty of Law at Allard Hall, UBC

My wife and I live in Surrey, and we've felt very fortunate to enjoy the Whistler outdoors for the past 20 years.

This past Sunday (June 29) we were even more fortunate to receive the kindness of strangers. After my wife crashed her bike on Alta Lake road, every car, cyclist and jogger slowed or stopped to offer help.

We would particularly like to thank the lovely woman who sat with my wife — she offered reassuring words and comfort that helped to ease my wife's anxiety. And we are grateful to all of the people at the Whistler Health Care Centre — you provided my wife with wonderfully attentive care. Thank you very much.

Michael Wright


In response to Cpl. Diane Blain (Pique, June 26), your view that women should have to "mind their environment" and implement a "buddy system" when out partying in Whistler perpetuates a dangerous belief that it is somehow a women's responsibility to avoid becoming a victim.

The emphasis should instead be on educating men (our sons, brothers, male friends) that violence towards women, inebriated or not, is never acceptable.

The focus should be on perpetrators who take advantage of women who are out enjoying the Whistler (or any) social scene. To suggest that women can avoid being harassed/taken advantage of is to seriously undermine every woman that has ever experienced violence simply by virtue of her being a female.

Caution should always be exercised when one is engaging in alcohol/drug use, regardless of whether one is male or female; but to suggest that women, in particular, need to take extra precautions, significantly misses the larger underlying issue.

Hannah Toohey


I had a long-winded letter written, but I didn't want to come off as being negative. So I have narrowed it down to one question to Pepe Barajas of the Mexican Corner.

Should Quattro's only hire Italian chefs, should the Bearfoot Bistro only hire French chefs, and should the Dubh Linn Gate only hire Irish chefs?

You should be hiring the best fit, and that best fit should not be based on where the person comes from. I bet there are plenty of non-Mexican papered chefs that would be able to cook Mexican just as well as someone from Mexico — you have a very biased opinion on who can cook your food.

Canada is a multi-cultural country and your work practices should be the same.

Paul Rowe


On June 28, the Whistler Public Library was honoured to be a venue for the opening gala of ArtWalk 2014.

This year we hosted a reception to showcase our artists; Mike Crane, Denise Hughes and Kathleen Tennock. Along with tea and pastries, we were entertained by harpist extraordinaire, Alison Hunter and flutist Ross Hacquebard.

The plaza featured life drawing, while in Florence Petersen Park the staff read stories in a magical reading circle.

Such a successful event deserves a big thank you to the community for coming out and celebrating art, and a thank you to the artists and WPL staff including Jen Pringle, who helped make it happen.

Special thanks to our amazing harpist, Alison Hunter who throughout the years has selflessly volunteered her time to support the arts. Kudos to Ross Hacquebard, the flutist. If you missed them they will be performing at the farmers' market this summer!

Thank you to Blenz for providing the yummy ice tea and the Friends of the Library for its pastry donations. A huge thank you to Purebread for its delicious donations and support over the years.

We are so fortunate to be part of such a lively and supportive community. Stop by the library over the next few months and enjoy our artist's displays.

Marilyn Crichton

Whistler Public Library

Already this year there have been three bears killed because of human stupidity.

It breaks my heart to hear of this happening. We need the municipality to step up and start putting up signs in village — "A fed bear is a dead bear."

People who live in Whistler are responsible for keeping doors locked, windows locked, vegetable gardens and bird feeders where bears can't get to them, and no garbage left outside at anytime.

I feel that there should be stiffer fines for people that break these laws. Maybe even court dates and jail time? Doesn't matter if it's your first time, or not.

Also, if you're a local that sees anyone too close to a bear, inform them about what is not OK.

Remember a bear is only programmed to eat, if you are given free food of course you will come back.

Respect them and their space. Let's not see another bear killed this year.

Ryan Doiron


Once again the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation has generously provided funds to the Pemberton Canoe Association to support young paddlers train to compete in B.C. and national flat-water competitions.

The purchase of a new training canoe and kayak will greatly enhance the chances of the young paddlers to be successful. The equipment will also allow the club to expand its flat-water program and develop the skills of a number of new young paddlers. They are already training hard and summer camps have begun at One Mile Lake.

The support of Whistler Blackcomb over the years has been much appreciated. The outrigger purchased with funds from the last grant from the Foundation is in constant use during the season.

Thanks from the members of the Pemberton Canoe Association to Whistler Blackcomb for continuing to support paddling in Pemberton and Whistler.

Marnie Simon, on behalf of the board of directors of the PCA


The staff and the Board of Trustees of the Whistler Public Library would like to thank the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for its recent grant of $35,000 to build a deck on the library overlooking Florence Petersen Park.

The deck was something that was included in the original library plan and will provide patrons with an alternate entrance to the library, while contributing to ease of access the library, the museum, and the park, and the vitality of the Main Street neighbourhood.

June 13 marked Florence Petersen Park's inaugural event, the Whistler Multicultural Festival. Next year this event will be even better with the new deck space to accommodate visitors enjoying the afternoon sun, entertainment and delicious food offered by the vendors.

We hope you will celebrate the completion of the library deck with us in 2015!

Elizabeth Tracy, Library Director

Gord Annand, Library Board Chair


I am a cyclist, there was even a time I was a cyclist with skinny tires. I have no problem sharing the road, one metre? Heck I'll give you two.

Until the past couple of weeks, passing cyclists on the highway hasn't registered as an issue. Not sure what it is about Ironman cyclists, perhaps it's the fact that drafting is illegal in competition, that almost every five minutes I have to pass what I can only describe as a peloton.

Groups of ten-plus riders, many not in single file, many in deep conversation, hurtle down the highway with little acknowlegement to the other users of the rest of the road.

This frustrates me. One metre is great but only until it starts messing with the distance I'd like to be giving to the other side of the highway full of vehicles travelling at a collision speed of more than 100km/h. If I'm ever in a position to make a choice which metre to cut short, I'm sure I'm not the only one that will cut the distance on the right side rather than the left.

So please, Ironmen and women. Pay attention to the other users on the road. They may only be made of steel, but they are still much bigger than you.

Jon Parris