Canadian National Railway Co. says it is still negotiating with the Gitxsan First Nation, as the deadline passed to vacate land along the Skeena River in northwestern B.C. that is claimed by the Gitxsan.
“CN has a long-standing co-operative relationship with the Gitxsan hereditary and elected chiefs, and the company is currently in discussions with them about this matter,” CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said Monday. “We have no further comment beyond that.”
Some of the hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan First Nation had issued eviction notices to Canadian National Railway and a number of sport fishermen and forestry companies, asking them to leave by Monday.
Service disruptions were expected Tuesday if the companies didn’t vacate, with CN being the primary target.
The evictions came after a precedent-setting ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada recognizing the aboriginal title and rights of the Tsilhqot’in.
But there is some division among the Gitxsan chiefs about what action the First Nation should take to best build momentum on that ruling, which states that companies must have permission from First Nations before they begin projects on land where aboriginal people hold title.
Only eight of the chiefs signed the eviction notice last month, while those opposed to the notice said loggers and sports fishermen are being caught in the crossfire.
Gitxsan Treaty Society negotiator Gwaans, whose English name is Beverley Clifton Percival, would not comment on the band’s plans Monday afternoon but said an update would be coming soon.
Ms. Percival previously stated that the Gitxsan does not want violence or confrontation: “We just want to deal with these issues head-on in B.C.,” she had said.
The Gitxsan territories are comprised of about 33,000 square kilometres and are organized into a complex structure of wilps, or house groups. Each is led by a hereditary chief, with about 60 chiefs in total.
Non-native business owners previously said the eviction orders would create uncertainty in a region already struggling economically.
The Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs, an organization which represents some but not all chiefs, broke off talks about pipelines with the B.C. government on June 21 because it contends that the government had illegally given away its land during treaty negotiations with the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum bands, from the Tsimshian First Nation.
The eviction notices are the group’s attempt to apply more pressure on the government to resolve the issue, Ms. Percival said.